Of course, having a website that looks good can be important to bringing in potential leads and interest. However, what happens when the design of a site completely takes over its usability? Even though your website may look like one of the most beautiful sites on the web, it doesn’t mean that it’s ‘working’, and here’s why:

One in seven people in Ontario have a disability, and we want to make sure that that population does not have trouble accessing a website. For the web, this means making sure that the site is accessible for screen readers. Over 836,000 people in Canada are currently living with significant vision loss, and that number is expected to rise dramatically in the years ahead with our aging population. While not all of these people are necessarily fully blind, many of them still rely on screen readers or increasing the font size on a page to read it.

How does this affect design? Images, images, images! Some designers would rather have a site ‘look good’ so they create much of the content (including main navigation elements and sometimes even header type) as images. This creates a problem however as screen readers will just be reading the actual text, which may leave people confused. To fix this problem while still having pretty design try using font kits and custom web fonts. When you are using images make sure you use descriptive alt tags as well.

SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is critical for your site to help it be found. Having a site that is optimized for search engines will increase its visibility on search engines such as Google (and you want to be found on Google, right?). Again, having a site that’s full of images when there should be text (navigation, header text, etc) can lower your chances of being found on search engines.

Flash websites:
While having some pieces of the site done in Flash can be fine, some designers think it is a good idea to design their entire site in Flash. This can be a problem for both accessibility and SEO again. Who cares if your site has flashy animation all over if no one can find it? Not to mention that with more open technologies such as HTML5, CSS3, and Javascript becoming more and more popular (and also more accessible and SEO-friendly), there is not much of a reason to continue down this path.

Web Usability:
This is another area that is extremely important for all users on your site – is your site easy to use? This doesn’t just come down to what you’ve made your site with, but how you’ve made your site and what you’ve put on it. Users don’t want to have to think – it should be obvious what their next step should be, and they shouldn’t have to take twelve steps to get where they want to go. You want your site to be efficient so users can get to the information they want quickly, otherwise they will give up and find somewhere else to get it.

Not only will having a site that’s usable keep users on your site, it will likely help bring more users to you and increase your business on the web. Besides, who says a site with great usability can’t be pretty too?