8 Tips for Building User Friendly Custom Web Applications

Monday, September 11th, 2017
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Custom web applications can add functionality and interactivity to your website. For example, shopping carts can make checking out easier on your e-commerce website, while online courses allow people to learn and grow right on your website. However, if web applications are going to make certain tasks easier for your website visitors, they need to be designed in a user friendly way. Otherwise, the app is more likely to confuse the user (and drive them away) than it is to make interaction with your website more appealing. Here are 8 tips for building user friendliness into any custom web application.

 

Use tooltips to guide the use of the custom web application without cluttering the interface.

Users prefer a clean and simple interface that does not distract them from the main task with lots of clutter (either images or text). At the same time, you want the app to be easily understood and utilized, even by people who are unfamiliar with custom web applications. To this end, use tooltips to clarify the use of the app. These brief guides to various buttons and links in your app appear when you hover over each tool. As a result, they provide guidance when needed, without adding potentially distracting text to the interface.

SEE ALSO: 10 Tips for Creating a Useful FAQ Page

Tell users when the custom web application is working.

There may be times when your custom web application does not immediately complete a task (i.e. Loading a customer’s items in a shopping cart or processing a registration form). At these times, build feedback into your custom web application. For example, use a “Loading,” or “Please Wait” dialogue. Better yet, consider using a loading bar, your company logo, or a funny picture and message to make the wait more interesting. Whatever tool you use, the key is to tell people that the app is working on their request, in order to prevent frustration and confusion on the user’s end.

Group related elements in a single drop-down menu.

The key to a user friendly custom web application is to make it intuitive. This means that the user can effortlessly figure out where to go and what to click on to accomplish their desired tasks. In order to make this process easier, group related elements under a single drop down menu. For example, under “Classes” for an online learning system, you might include such topics as “Current Class Assignments,” “Grades,” and “Class Schedule” so that students can access all of their class information in a single location.

Avoid popups on your custom web application.

Your custom web application users probably do not want to be distracted from their goals by pop ups. Also known as modals, these messages tend to interfere with the user’s ability to accomplish their desired task, and require time and effort to read and/or dismiss. As a result, limit the use of these modals in your custom web application to only those pieces of information that are critical for your users to know and act upon.

Stick with familiar patterns in your custom web application.

A user will more easily navigate a custom web application if it presents information and completes tasks in familiar ways. For example, if the user knows where the search button is, how to access their payment information, and where to find the “Buy Now” button, they will be much more likely to use your shopping cart. To this end, stick with familiar patterns in your custom web application by adopting patterns that are universal across web apps. In addition, make sure that every page of your app presents information and tasks in the same way.

Show people where they are in your custom web application.

Navigating a custom web application can become complicated if users do not know where they are in the app or how they got there. Prevent this kind of confusion by building navigational clues into your custom web application. For example, use breadcrumbs (A navigational aid that lists the steps they took to their current location); highlight the section of the app that they are in, or implement other tools to help users identify where they are in the app. Just make sure that these navigational tools also enable users to go back if they wish (i.e. Turn your breadcrumbs into links to previous locations).

Simplify information entry on your custom web application.

Many custom web applications require users to enter information. For example, authenticated access, shopping carts, sign up forms, and more may require users to input pieces of information about themselves. Doing so takes time and effort, and users do not want to input these facts more than once. As a result, simplify information entry on your custom web application. For example, ask users for pieces of information (i.e. log ins and reference numbers) only once, and group requests for information together into a single page.

Build your custom web application with your target audience in mind.

A successful custom web application will be built with a specific target audience in mind. For example, avoid technical jargon in an online learning course designed for IT beginners, but implement technical language for an app designed for IT experts. The key is to design a custom web application that speaks to the needs and expectations of the people you want using the app. Doing so will make the app much easier and more appealing to use for that target audience. A custom web application can be a useful addition to your website, especially if there are certain tasks you need website visitors to complete. In order to make sure that it is easy for users to interact with, implement basic features (such as tooltips, familiar patterns, and breadcrumbs) that will clearly guide users through the app. And, consider enlisting the services of an experienced web development company like WEBii to ensure that both your website and your web app achieve the goals you have and reach the target audience you need to build a thriving site.

Ruth Hawk
Writer, WEBii
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