In the context of a website, usability is defined as the
efficiency with which a user can perform self-set tasks. Usability
can be measured objectively via performance errors and productivity,
and subjectively via user preferences and interface characteristics.
- What are your objectives?
Seems obvious but you want to “convert”
the visitor – by making a sale, getting a sign-up, or registration,
or just getting them to contact you. That is the point of having a website, so start with the goal and work backwards. Ensure that
the whole site leads the user to your goal.
- What does your user need?
If you ensure the users’ needs are fulfilled,
you are more likely to get a “conversion”. So, design
your site around your users’ needs. It is best to research
this. Ask your clients what they need. This will ensure that
your website will be more relevant and focused.
- Spend time on the
The organization of information is key to your
users’ experience when visiting your website. Information
should be organised in a way that is logical to the user –
not to reflect your departmental structure, for example.
- Follow convention
This does not mean being a copycat, but general
protocols, or standards have emerged on the web – use these
rather than make up your own. Examples are the navigation structure
you use, and the use of common labels for buttons. If you do not
follow convention users will be confused.
- Conceptual testing
From the conceptual side you should test the
website early rather than try to fix things at launch, or post
launch. Test the website’s organisational structure by asking
test subjects where they would go to find information. Later show
them wire frame layouts with buttons and see if they can intuitively
complete the tasks they want to do (like use the shopping basket).
Any confusion should be examined and put right.
- Technical testing
From a technical standpoint you should test
the website on different browsers to make sure it performs as
expected under different conditions. You should also consider
the time that it takes your pages to load, and ensure the graphics
are not too heavy. Users are highly intolerant of slow page load
speeds and any weird browser issues.
- Typography & design
There has been a considerable amount of research
on the speed that users can navigate, read, and comprehend a page
layout. Do yourself a favour and ensure your design doesn’t
slow down, or worse turn off your visitors. The font you use,
the size of text, the space between the lines, the line width,
the length of paragraph, the colour of text and background, the
use of animation – all this has been researched and its
impact understood for different types of user profile.
- Content style
Similar to point 7. above, the content style
has a huge impact on the usability of a website. Basically users
tend to skim text and dip into detail – rather than read
a whole page. They prefer short, bulleted points, and the ability
to print something they find useful. Write for the user, not for
the marketing department.
- Content sell-by-date
There is no point building a beautiful website
and then not keeping the website up-to-date. This is a sinful
oversight. This is something that a user will judge and react
to quickly by leaving the website.
- Defer to the statistics
A website’s visitor log is a function
of its usability. By examining the statistics you can see what
pages are being visited most, and for how long. You should respond
accordingly and consider what is not being viewed and whether
it should stay. Similarly you can see where visitors are leaving
your site, and if they are not completing the payment process
(for example), you can at least see at what stage they quit. This
richness of data is a market researchers dream. Act upon it. Your
website can only get better.e