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Best Practices for Popular User Interface Elements

Interface design is just as important as the quality of the content on your website. When creating a website, attention must be paid to the most significant interface elements — appearance and usability. A design that does not take these elements into account will drive your audience away and as a result, your ROI will suffer. To yield results, page design should be clean and succinct, so that visitors can access information quickly and without hassle. Below, we have listed a few tips about best practices for user interface elements to help you maintain a compelling and effective website.

Search box appearance

On large sites, visitors are more inclined to use the search box instead of navigation. The search box should be immediately visible. If not, the visitor may be able to find it after a frustrating hunt, but more likely the visitor will assume there is no search function. The search box should be easy to see and large enough to stand out amongst other elements on the page. Unless the audience is quite unique, the box should be placed in the customary position on the upper right side because this is where visitors have become accustomed to finding it. You may want to include a magnifying glass graphic, as it has become understood universally as the search symbol.

Location of shopping cart and log-in register functions

Visitors tend to look to the top-right corner of the page when searching for ‘shopping cart’ or ‘register now’ links. Unless you have a reason to place it somewhere else, this element should be kept in this familiar location so as not to slow down or disrupt the user experience.

Placement of opt-in form

Placement of the opt-in form on the upper left leads to the highest number of opt-ins. Most cultures read left to right. The visitor’s eye begins at the top left corner of the site and will return to rest there. The opt-in should be placed in this area of high visibility because visitors will be more likely to fill it out.

Clearly marked collapsible/expandable content

Collapsible panels can make for a positive user experience because they tend to make the layout look simpler and cleaner but allow for easy access to details content without requiring the visitor to move to another page. If you use collapsible panels, make sure they are clearly marked or they prove detrimental to usability. Your website should clearly differentiate between normal links and links that reveal new content via a click. Collapsible content should be indicated with symbol such as a plus/minus or an arrow, etc.

AJAX Loading Indicator

If your site uses Ajax, be sure to let the visitor know when an Ajax request is being processed or they may become frustrated and leave your site. You can do this by highlighting a ‘loading’ or similar message in the area near the action or simply using the hourglass symbol.

Use of Javacript & iFrames

Javascript and iFrames increase the amount of time it takes for your site to load, so in this area, more is not necessarily better. You want your site to load as fast as possible because visitors decide in a matter of seconds whether they will stay to engage with the site or navigate away. If your site pages takes more than 20 seconds to load, you are probably losing half of your visitors immediately. Check your websites stats for page load times, bounce rates, exit pages and other data to see whether the load time is optimal.

Use of Flash

By the end of 2020 Adobe will no longer support its Flash Player browser plugin. Other browser developers like Apple, Microsoft, Google and Mozilla have announced plans to phase flash out of their products along this same timeline. Avoid creating any new Flash-based content and look to other technologies such as Java, JavaScript and HTML5. Be sure to find suitable replacements for any existing flash-based content that exists on your site currently.


Be careful about the amount of advertising on your site. If you have too much advertising on your website, interested visitors may not stay to find the important content. Some large sites do have a lot of ads, but this is because they have a high amount of traffic. Most sites should stick to as little advertising as possible. Advertising overkill that negatively affects user experience can lead to SEO penalties.

Easily Identifiable Links

Visitors should never have trouble differentiating regular texts and links. Links should be made a different color or underlined so that they stand out. This will enable visitors to find the links they are searching for, while also helping them avoid the frustration of inadvertently navigating away from a page.

User interface elements should be simple and well-organized. Good technical design and content design go hand in hand for successful website. Do not understimate user behavior and habits -- it is usually best to follow the customs of the industry because visitors have often become familiar with a certain type of design or architecture. Taking the time to carefully design your site for your audience will improve the visit stats and lead generation capabilities. Your website is likely intended to improve or grow your business in some form, so careful site design is essential for creating a successful, advantageous website.

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Neptune Web is a full-service Boston-area interactive web and digital marketing agency with expertise in Website Design, Web Development, Digital Marketing Strategy and Execution.

We look forward to your comments and would be most happy to address and help solve any Digital Marketing or Website Design & Development challenges you may have.

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