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5 usability tips for landing pages

First impressions count, especially online where your landing page is the battleground on which visitors and customers can be won and lost. You have a matter of seconds to make someone feel welcome enough to progress onwards through your website to where you really want them to be. The key theme that runs through each of these five points is: Don’t Make Them Think!

Certain designs elements and styles are more cognitively taxing than others. Our brains are lazy, and prefer to do as little work as possible. These five tips will help you make you website a land of cognitive milk-and-honey, and retain more traffic as a result.

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Rounded corners

The more round a shape is, the less taxing it is on our cognitive perception system – we prefer rounded corners to sharp ones because they are easier for our brains to understand. The trend has been apparent for a while now, not just in web design but in desktop software too, and even hardware as well (think Apple products).

Negative space

A good amount of negative space is essential. It helps to make a landing page appear uncluttered and simple, which focuses the user’s attention on the most important aspects of the page like a form, or a buy button. Clutter makes our brains work harder, having to categorise content and process it, and deciding what is relevant and what isn’t. There is also the risk of confusing some people into clicking elements on your page that are irrelevant and moving away from the route you want them to take through your site.

Simple, minimal navigation

Even if your website is large and has many categories of information or products, having a simple and easy-to-use navigation system is essential for helping and guiding your users through it. Rather than having a menu with ten different items, have three or four menu items, each of which drop down to reveal a further two or three each.

In this way you are doing some of the information processing for your users, which means they don’t have to, which means they find your site easy to use and they will come back again, and hopefully tell all their friends. When presented with a mass of information our brains will attempt to categorise it – the more it is already categorised into meaningful sections, the less work our brains need to do.

Clearly demarcated content areas

Following on from the last point, we can see that it is important to clearly demarcate the different content areas on your page. This can be done using colour, negative space or even distinct lines and borders. It should be immediately apparent on a landing page what areas are for navigation, which areas are for social aspects, such as sharing on Twitter or Facebook, and which areas are for getting what you want done. When a user lands on your site, they will likely be seeking to achieve some goal. The less you make a user have to think about where to go to reach that goal, the more likely they are to get there.

Use colour wisely

Instinctively we know that some colour-schemes, usually high contrast complementary colours, are tiring to look at. Our brain finds it confusing to process these types of areas of high contrast, and as a result we can often experience strange visual sensations, such as a pulsating or ‘pulling’ of the colours. Well-designed colour schemes provide no excess strain on your users’ brains – nothing to distract them from achieving their goals.

Whilst the majority of your landing page can benefit from a colour scheme that is not cognitively disturbing, it can be beneficial to add a little bit of dissonance here and there. The key action element – your buy, or form submit button for example – should stand out from the rest of the landing page, and draw attention to itself as the most important place for a user to click on. You can do this by making this element a colour that purposefully contrasts with your main colour scheme.

There is no one great landing page design, and no strict rules that can be followed to ensure landing page success. However, on the whole, you are going to create far more efficient landing pages if all your design decisions are guided by that one user-centred maxim: Don’t Make Them Think!

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