Since most UX problems on the web are rooted in poor user interface design, a quick heuristic evaluation can do wonders in improving the overall user experience of a website.
Keeping in mind Nielsen’s widely used usability heuristics to check if your website is good enough to provide a good experience for your users, we can check for the following:
Provide relevant feedback whenever possible
It’s important to keep the user informed in every step of the process. The site should provide relevant feedback in a timely manner. Information should be there as soon as the user needs it. Help the user know their current state and provide triggers that will let them act appropriately. This helps maintain a seamless flow of navigation throughout your site.
Speak your user’s language
Use a language that is familiar to your target audience. Real-world conventions make your users comfortable navigating your site. Technical terms and acronyms should be reserved to those users who will understand them at a glance. Otherwise, immediately provide descriptions or remove them entirely.
Users should be free to do whatever they want
It is important that you provide an ample amount of freedom to your users. Give them options to handle both wanted and unwanted actions. There should be options to go back, move forward, or leave the current page without disrupting the experience.
Your users will make mistakes from time to time and it’s up to you to handle them appropriately. Create user contingencies for possible error states, giving users more options on what to do upon encountering a roadblock. A good information architecture is a big help in preventing and solving errors, giving users a clear path to their goals as well as what to do if they encounter them.
Create a style guide and follow it at all costs
Try to maintain the same design layout and style across your site. From the fonts, color schemes, margins and navigation, keeping it consistent adds to the user’s level of comfort. The opposite creates distraction and confusion that does nothing but detract from your user’s goals in navigating your website.
Catch potential mistakes
Don’t make your users think too hard
Chances are, your users are better at recognition than recall. So be consistent in your design. Provide the user enough information about the current page they’re in, and they’re place in the overall site structure. Effective use of breadcrumbs, navigation menus as well as fonts, color schemes and other site elements will give users enough context to know where they are, what is the purpose of this page, what they’re supposed to do, and where to go next.
Design for power users
Give your more advanced users options to navigate the site faster than they did the first time. Track common actions and design for that. Make frequently visited pages more accessible, commonly clicked links more recognizable, and important content readable.
Your navigation, sitemap, and breadcrumb structure is a big help in terms of getting your users to go wherever they want to go on your site as quick as possible.
Keep it simple, keep it straight
Make sure that every piece of information on a page is absolutely necessary. Either too much or too little can potentially paralyze your user, preventing them from achieving their goal upon visiting your site. The more you put on a specific web page, the lower the chance that your user can fulfill an intended task.
Catch your users when they fall
Some errors are unavoidable; therefore, the messages that recognize these must be simple and actionable. State the error, suggest solutions, and provide your users some options on how to proceed from there.
Support should always be at least one click away
Accessing your site’s help and documentation should always be your user’s last resort. It is where your users go if all else fails, so make sure that the documentation is robust, easily searchable, catered to the current task and most importantly, accurate. Provide user access to this through easily identifiable “Help” links, and the error message itself should contain links detailing possible solutions.