Many companies say their websites are easy to use, but when the final product is done, it looks too cluttered. The navigation is confusing. Your association’s color is totally wrong and the site doesn’t look right on smartphones, which your members are using more than ever. You may be thinking, Remind me again what’s easy about this site?
This begs another question: What does easy actually look like? How can you tell how a website will actually turn out before it’s built? It’s worth looking into so you’re not sold a bill of “easy” goods that ends up being far less user-friendly than promised.
Websites should maintain a balance of function and image. No one wants a boring site, but how many bells and whistles does a site need before it becomes little more than noise?
A website with a clean look that’s branded to match your association and event website is the ultimate goal. To get a good idea of this balancing act, ask to see examples. Not just the demo, which will be polished within an inch of its life, but live sites the vendor has built. That will tell you the full story.
For even greater usability, a site could contain visual cues to help attendees navigate and understand the information presented. For example, anyone who has used the internet even briefly will recognize certain icons and interpret their meaning instantly:
- Calendar = Date
- Pin = Location
- Clock = Time
- Arrow on a collapsed item = Click to expand
- Arrow on an expanded item = Click to collapse
Other cues, like a progress bar to show that an item is loading and color-coding to signify different tracks, help users find their way around a site, even (perhaps especially) if they’re not consciously aware of the help they are receiving. Also in the category of visual cues: social widgets, with links to the association or event pages for Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, and others.
The next time someone tells you their site is easy to use, apply a healthy dose of skepticism. Some sites deserve the label, and some fall far short. Insist on seeing it before you believe it.
What do you think? Do the words “clean” and “easy” come to mind when you take these sites for a spin? Let us know in the comments below! For more information on our updated event websites, contact an account manager!