Touchscreen smartphones is now an everyday feature of our lives. When the iPhone first launched way back in 2007 though, the idea that you could have a phone in your pocket that was able to be operated with solely your finger was preposterous. The iPhone was far from the first phone to come with a touchscreen, Palm OS and other personal digital assistants were already popular back then but the iPhone was the first product that successfully democratized the touch-based interface.
Other touch interfaces at the time wasn’t as intuitive but the first iPhone was accessible enough for everyone to use. Accessibility is important in a product, it’s pointless if you have an engineering marvel running underneath if your users can’t or don’t know how to access them. Web development also runs under the same principle, a website’s usability and user-friendliness should never take a backseat to sheer visual flair.
Website’s barrier of entry
In economic terms, barrier of entry is described as the cost of initial investment businesses have to make before they can compete in a certain field. In the automotive industry, the barrier of entry is high because you have to have a factory of your own in order to build cars. By contrast, the barrier of entry associated with the creative industry is low, since all you need is a paintbrush and a canvas or something to write on.
When we’re talking websites, we’re generally talking about how much of an effort a certain user have to expend before they can enjoy whatever contents you have to offer. Have you ever visited a website that requires you to turn of your adblockers before you could see what’s in there? Or a website that’s so overwhelmingly full of information that it took you quite a while to find the section you’re looking for? Those are examples of barriers of entry.
Lowering the barrier of entry to websites
Essentially, this consists of making your websites easier to use. Sometimes this is done by taking out things that aren’t necessary. Other times, it is done by adding usability features that makes your website easier to live with. In some cases, it would also mean making an effort to accommodate the disabled or the visually impaired. To start with, here are 4 suggestions on what you could do lower the barrier of entry to your website:
- Effective navigation
The navigation bar, which should include your company’s logo, is the port of call for every visitor to your website and as such, proper care should always be taken when designing your navigation bar. Try to minimize the clutter as much as possible, implementing dropdown menus to keep it from being crowded. Additionally, you might want to consider implementing a contrasting palette to make the navigation bar stood out from the rest of your website.
For websites whose main page is heavily loaded with contents and generous use of scrolling, consider using what is called a fixed navigation bar. A fixed navigation bar stays tethered to one side of the page, usually at the top or on the left side, as user scrolls down the page. Also, implement a search box to make it easier for users to comb through all of your contents.
- Beware of information overload
Minimalism isn’t just an aesthetic choice; it’s also very much a functional one. Instead of overwhelming your visitors with a cornucopia of information and contents, take a step back and try to cherry pick which info or content you’d like to push to the forefront. That content is now the hero element which will be prominently displayed on your webpage while the others take a backseat.
- Mobile-friendliness, site performance and backwards compatibility
Mobile internet traffic has exceeded desktop traffic for some time now so it stands to reason that optimizing your website for mobile, by using responsive web design for example, should now be a priority. By the same token, you should also make sure that your site doesn’t take too much time to load on erratic mobile networks. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should neglect those browsing from computers as well.
For those doing business in the B2B sector, it’s actually a good idea to ensure that your site would still work well for those still running on old systems and outdated browsers. B2B customers aren’t always the type to judiciously keep their systems updated and it’s entirely possible that your potential customer is accessing your website on a computer running Windows XP with an outdated version of Internet Explorer that came bundled with the computer.
- Adblock messages, full-page popups and other kinds of wall
If your website’s sole purpose is to serve contents, ads is most likely your primary way of making money. I understand that you don’t want freeloaders to put a stress on your server but completely blocking access to your website is not the way to do it. Try using a banner asking for donation for your site as an alternative or Patreon for content creators but take care not to use full-page or other intrusive popups.
The stick approach rarely, if ever, works and as a user, I generally prefer when a website asks me nicely to turn off adblock rather than outright blocking me access to the website.
If you’re willing to go the extra mile, consider adding usability features for the disabled. Refer to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) for ways to address this. This is of course, a major undertaking, even for an organization of considerable resource so you’d be excused for not following through. You can however focus on using a monochromatic color palette to help those with colorblind.