In recent years one can hear online marketing buzz-phrase „web ergonomics“ more and more. Many programmers and graphic designers can soon be irritated by hearing the phrase, a lot of marketing experts however consider it a rule of thumb.

In recent years one can hear online marketing buzz-phrase „web ergonomics“ more and more. Many programmers and graphic designers can soon be irritated by hearing the phrase, a lot of marketing experts however consider it a rule of thumb.

The meaning of ergonomy must be familiar to many. If something is ergonomic, that means that it was designed to meet exactly the needs of its user. An ergonomic design of a tool, machine or object makes it easier to use. So what does it mean for a website?

Simply put, ergonomic design for a website means that the user can handle it easily. However, the situation is a bit more complex. Since competing companies – more precisely, their websites – are only a few clicks away from ours, it does not take much time for a user to leave our site and try to find the information somewhere else. So it is very important how much our visitors will like our page at first glance, how much it will be worth for him or her to browse our site. A website with an ergonomic design is transparent, the user can easily find what he or she is looking for without learning how to use the site. The point is that we should never waste our visitors‘ valuable time.

„Web is the industry of attention, where the main currency is the user’s time.“ – Jakob Nielsen

Main rules of web ergonomics:

– Use clear visual hierarchy, that is, the most important things (menus, links etc.) should always be clearly visible, and we should try to create a visual connection between the elements that are logically related.

– Stick to the web conventions, in other words, we should try to keep to the unwritten rules of webdesign when creating a page. Don’t try to be a pioneer or a revolutionary if it goes at the expense of transparency.

– Divide the website into clearly distinct parts, build up your site in a way that makes is both visually and structurally the most transparent.

– Try to minimise the noise, which means, try to avoid the use of unnecessary visual, structural elements or contents, which only draws attention from the essence, making your website harder to use.

Let’s take a bit closer look at the key elements of an ergonomic design!

As we have already mentioned, the most important thing is that we should not waste our customers‘ time and we should focus on the most transparent solutions possible. According the researches, only 16% of all users read the full text of a subpage when looking for something. The rest just have a quick glance, they search for keywords or read the highlighted parts of the text. So we should not write walls of texts everywhere, because it’s simply unnecessary. Of course, this does not mean that the abundance of text content, articles, professional writings would not make sense and have benefits. It only means that we need to find the ideal place for them on our site that can be, for example, a professional blog on which only those click who are indeed interested in the content. It’s not by chance that in case of webshops, we only provide a small amount of information about the product or service in category view (where several items are listed). A picture, a few parameters maybe, the price or an indication if the product has a discount are often sufficient. The rest of the information should be visible on the data sheet of the product or in a tooltip, so only those will read them who are genuinely interested in that product and need further information. This way the rest of the users won’t be disturbed when going through the product list, it will not be too noisy.

When it comes to content, it is important to note that we should express ourselves as clearly as possible. A common mistake when the page is full of meaningless marketing rubbish. Make an effort to provide useful and valuable information, so it does not require the user to spend time on finding out the really important information from the text. Of course, it’s not only the quality of the text content that matters, but also its visibility. Font size, contrast of the font and the background color are all factors that can affect the readability of the text quite a lot. It’s possible that we fell in love with a certain cufon (web font), but if by using it we make it harder for the user to read it, we can be sure that he or she will not read it at all. In this case, the text becomes a redundant content.

If we want an ergonomically designed website, then we need to see through the eyes of the user, so we adjust to his or hear needs and expectations. Of course, we don’t need to „reinvent the wheel“, since both webdesign and webpage layouts have their own unwritten rules that if we follow, we can’t really go wrong. It may be a silly example, but it does not hurt if „Contact“ is the last element of the top menu, in other words, it is on the upper right part of the page. What’s the reason behind this? It’s simple: on most sites it can be found there so our user will look for it there. If our website sticks to these basic conventions, the user will not be forced to „learn“ to use our website.

We all know how important first impression is when we try to „sell ourselves“ on a date or in a job interview. We have to pay attention to this at websites as well. Many people think that the primary goal for our website to shine and sparkle and dazzle the user. However, it’s much more important for our website to be transparent at first glance, to let the user know what page he or she is on and in what direction he should go if he wants to find the information on our website he needs. Some people fall into a trap that they indeed create an excellent, transparent main page but forget the subpages. The problem with that is, however, that users do not come to the main page only, on the other hand, in most cases they usually land on a subpage.

In closing, there is one more important factor that has become an integral part of web ergonomics in the past few years. This is the proper displaying of the site on various devices. We do not even mention that a website should be properly displayed on every browser because it is evident for all web developers by now. In these days however, more and more people are using the internet from some kind of mobile device (smartphones, tablets), so we can significantly improve the transparency, usability and the user experience itself, if our website is responsise, which means that it is optimised to different screen sizes.

One could write about web ergonomics for hours, but the point of this article is not to go into details thoroughly about rules belonging to ergonomic design.

Széchenyi 2020