Usability is a measurement of how easy it is to use a website or user interface. This term is also used to refer to the improvement of the overall ease-of-use when designing an interface.
The core components of usability are:
- Learnability: Can users accomplish basic tasks on their very first visit? Is it intuitive?
- Efficiency: Once the user has learned the system can they do the tasks quickly?
- Memorability: How easy is the system to use after not using it for a period of time?
- Errors: How many issues did the user run into, how severe were they, and how easily can they recover from them?
- Satisfaction: Is it fun and easy to use?
- Utility: Does it do what the user needs?
General Website Tips
Use a descriptive tagline of what your website does
Have you ever been frustrated by a website after searching high and low and still cannot find out what they do? Consider starting a practice of having a one line descriptive slogan of what the business does on the homepage or every page. Not some lame marketing jargon but plain easy to understand English of what the site is for; if your parents could read it and get it you should be all set.
Using the Window <TITLE>
The number one factor to how your page is indexed in search engines is the description used in the pages title. Start getting away from the old “Company Name > About” style and move to “KEYWORD PHRASES RELEVANT TO THIS PAGE | Company Name” and exclude the company name if you feel it is not necessary.
Search Box Tips
- You do not need to add the text “Search” in front of a textbox if there is a button that reads “Search” to the right that the user is supposed to click on. People have caught on, this is now intuitive behavior and it’s ok to remove that redundancy.
- General rule of thumb, make your search box 27 characters wide.
- Definitely include search on your site if it has over 100 pages
Having a Home link on the homepage
If you are on the homepage you don’t need to have the Home button in the navigation. If you have a consistent navigation on all pages that includes the Home page that at least make sure that the navigation element is highlighted differently when they are on that page.
Name and Logo
Include the name of your site and the logo on every page; link the logo to the homepage.
Links go to new pages, Buttons perform actions
As a general rule of thumb text links should take you to a new page when you click on them and buttons should submit some type of information or take you to the next step in a process.
Using PDF’s on your website
As a general rule of thumb you should try to avoid using PDF’s on your website when possible. They break the natural flow of website browsing. Often users will click on a link and not know it was a PDF link, it then opens up and they have to wait for it to download and for acrobat to start running within the browser and then often times they close it immediately and end up closing their entire web browser. Plus a PDF is just a mass of content that is very difficult to navigate through. Use PDFs if you are distributing large documents that the user needs to print, or documents that must be formatted in a very specific way.
Avoiding Banner Blindness
Studies show that users now understand what banners and advertisements look like on websites and often look right past them. This means it is very important to ensure your content and images do not look like banners. Avoid creating images the size that banners usually are, avoid blinking or animated images, and definitely avoid using traditional pop-ups when at all possible. Text only ads are now proving to be the most successful banner ads because users are still reading them.
Don’t open new browser windows
When you think about building websites you must always be thinking what is intuitive and what is consistent. You don’t want to break many of the normal browsing norms because you want users to feel at home on your site and have little to learn. If you program your site to start opening windows up in a new browsers as users clicks you open up a world of issues. The first and most important is that the back button does not work on the new window; and this button is extremely popular and critical when navigating the web. The second is that different web browsers handle new windows differently. In one it may be a new window or perhaps a new tab, and if it’s a new tab and then moves the user to that page they have to scan their tabs to get back to where they were. Remember, the user always has the option to make the decision themselves if they want the link to open up in a new window by right clicking or CTRL clicking on a link on your site.
Restrictive Form Behavior
Rethink your website forms. Remember that each field that the user has to fill out is some burden to them, so if you don’t need or use the salutation don’t ask for it, and ask yourself that question for each form field. When asking for phone numbers don’t split it into three separate boxes when one will do. Don’t require the user to type the phone number in a specific format or their credit card in a specific format if it doesn’t really matter. Is that field REALLY required or do you just feel it would be nice to have? Think about your forms a bit more, make them easier for your users, not just easier for you.
Splash "Intro" Pages and 100% Flash Sites
Don’t do it, they give the impression that the website is more concerned with its own image then that of the user's actual needs and their time. For some industries a splash page or heavy use of Flash might be appropriate, but for most B2B and B2C websites these techniques should be used sparingly, if at all.
Think about your Typography
You can achieve more with choosing the right fonts, sizes, colors and placement then you can achieve with large graphics and bloated designs.
Your viewer is engaged in your information while they are on your website, but once they are done you have lost that connection. They might not ever come back. Enticing users to sign up for an email newsletter can help you maintain a long relationship with them, providing them with timely, useful updates and always keeping you in the forefront of their mind.