Why Web Standards are Important

When a person visits a website, they will make snap judgements about it based on its appearance and their experience there. These judgements will play a large part in determining if the user stays on the site, so making sure that you don’t have anything immediately putting them off is important.

The first aspect to consider is the text on the site. The most successful websites have text split up into short, easily understood and absorbed sentences. Paragraphs may consist of only one of these sentences. This is due to the way that people approach content online, but the reasons behind that are beyond the scope of this article.

Users also tend to look for information that they can identify with or believe is genuine, rather than something filled with pithy marketing slogans. This means that a well-designed website will make the information users want readily accessible. Being overly verbose is a mistake.

The second point to consider with regards to the writing is the stylistic aspect. Font colour, style and size, as well as the background it is written on, are all instantly taken in by the user. If it’s too difficult to read then people will leave. Maintaining consistency with the rest of the internet is more important than many people think. A user expects links to be underlined, and may even expect them to all be in blue as well, due to blue, underlined links being so prolific. Users will expect forums to generally have the same set up across the internet, as well as search engines, sidebars and image galleries following similar formats (no next or previous button in a gallery leads to frustration).

Browser compatibility is less of an issue nowadays, but ensuring that a website works on, at least, Firefox and Internet Explorer is a must. Most users will not load up a separate browser to view one website, instead, they go elsewhere.

Again, it’s less of an issue nowadays, but sites covered in GIFs or Flash elements don’t tend to impress. Occasionally, a site will be produced that is Flash-based and works very well, but most of them do not.
The final mistake here is asking the user to jump through too many hoops. If they have to create a login to access the information they want, fill in a large number of questions, or even click too many times to find what they need, they can easily just go somewhere else. The information may be useful to the site owner, but not having any visitors is not a price worth paying.

When designing a website, it’s essential that the user experience is thought of at every turn. They are the ones who will visit the site, and they are the ones who decide whether to close the window without giving you an opportunity to convince them not to. The amount of things that can put a user off is huge; it does not take much for somebody to stop browsing a site.

Tom Sangers is a contributor to Online SEO Blog, which contains a helpful SEO glossary
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