The future of competing websites is headed towards a new evolution, one in which sites that provide a greater user experience will gain superiority over ones that lack this fundamental attribute. In essence, modern and advancing websites are quickly becoming huge, multifaceted structures rather than mere platforms for sharing content. It’s all about bringing websites closer to meeting our user’s expectations—i.e. user experience (UX).

Creating an overall better user experience for your visitors through a well-designed website helps foster ease of use as well as greater user engagement, meaning your website will be more successful in driving traffic and generating leads for the long run. After all, no one likes a website that frustrates them. What I’m trying to say here is: make your website easy to use!

Since design is just as important as functionality, here are seven basic usability principles you should know in order to keep your website up to date and ahead of the competition. (For related reading, see: How Advisors Can Win at SEO With Their Websites.)

1. The 7± 2 Principle

According to psychologist George A. Miller’s studies, humans can retain only five to nine things in their short-term memory at one time. Since the human brain is limited in its capacity to process information and handles this limitation by dividing information into chunks and units, it has been argued that website navigation menus should also be limited to containing only five to nine items. (Related: How to Build a Credible Online Presence: A Webinar from Investopedia and Advisor Websites)

So keep that navigation bar at the top of your site short and sweet!

2. The 2-Second Rule

Perhaps a more obvious principle is the 2-Second Rule, which states that the less users have to wait, the better the user experience will be. Thus, all users should not have to wait more than two seconds for certain types of system responses, such as application switching and application launching.

3. The 3-Click Rule

The 3-Click Rule is one of the fundamental building blocks to producing a website with a great UX design. As stressed many times before, content is king, but so is an intuitive website design and this principle does a phenomenal job emphasizing this significance.

According to the 3-Click Rule, users stop using a website if they aren’t able to find the information they are looking for or access the website’s feature within three mouse clicks. Although the number of mouse clicks is irrelevant to majority of situations, it still adheres to the basic usability principle and logicality that a good website is one that promotes easy navigation. In short, avoid confusing your website users! (For related reading, see: How to Be a Top Financial Advisor.)

4. The 80/20 Rule

The Pareto Principle states that 80% of effects come from 20% of the causes. What does that exactly mean? In the wonderful world of web design, this means that dramatic improvements can be achieved by identifying 20% of users, customers, activities, products or processes that account for 80% of your profit and then maximizing the attention you pay to them. For instance, if the majority of your leads come from a certain e-book you give out once every two months, consider pushing out that e-book more regularly.

5. Eight Golden Rules of Interface Design

From his interface design studies, Ben Shneiderman proposed a collection of principles that were derived heuristically from experience and that apply to most interactive systems. These set of principles are relevant to user interfaces as well as web design: Strive for consistency, allow frequent users to use shortcuts, offer informative feedback, design dialogs to yield closure, offer simple error handling, permit easy reversal of actions, impart a sense of control, support an internal locus of control and lastly, reduce short-term memory load.

6. Fitt’s Law

In 1954, Paul Fitts created a law stating that human movement towards a target area is dependent on the distance to that target and the size of it. Essentially, targets that are smaller and further away are more time consuming to acquire.

In relation to website usability, this rule reinforces the benefits of increased accessibility and improved click rates. For example, if a financial advisor wishes for visitors to click on his call-to-action button, he will place it near the top of the webpage and/or the sidebar versus in the footer, which can impede on high clicking rates. (For related reading, see: Why Social Media Is a Necessity for Financial Advisors.)

7. Inverted Pyramid

The Inverted Pyramid is also a well known principle in journalism whereby writers give their readers a summary before revealing finer details about a topic. Also known as the waterfall effect, this principle can also be applied to web design since web users often enjoy instant gratification similar to how readers can gain a bigger and better picture of the topic immediately before unraveling its background information.

The Bottom Line

Making great strides in building predictable and intuitive websites can eliminate frustrated users and thus help you not only gain larger amounts of viewers that are coming to your site but, more importantly, help retain them. As such, don’t just make your website a pretty sight to see; ensure it also promotes ease of use and an intuitive functionality if you want your viewers to stay. (For related reading, see: Why E-mail Marketing Should Be an Advisor Priority.)

-This article was written by Kellie Gibson and first appeared on Advisor Websites.