Web usability basics

What is web usability?

We talk about web usability when we refer to the set of rules that are followed while building a website in order to make it user-friendly.

Why should a website be user-friendly?

Whatever the main goal of a website may be (revenue booster, pure advertising, information display etc.), it aims at some type of users. These users have some common traits and habits. Experience will teach anyone that if a user can get around the navigation of a website in the first few seconds, for instance, they will most likely leave the page and never return.

This is not what a website was meant to achieve at all. Chasing the users is the nightmare, not the dream of any website owner.

Therefore, in order to avoid this from happening, we need to make sure that we respect some basic rules of usability.

How to achieve this?

First, we need to understand that the website users have some habits: for instance, they expect a navigation menu. If there’s no navigation, the users will be absolutely lost and bewildered.

Moreover, the users have some preferences: they prefer their experience to be rather easy than challenging on a website. Therefore, the better the information is organised, the happier the user will be.

Steps to take:

 

Scenario A.

If you don’t have a website already, but plan to get one soon:

  1. Make sure you do some research before fantasising about the way your website should look. If you start fantasising first, it may be painful to give up your ideal design when realising afterwards that it won’t work.
  2.  Consult the experts. Most of the web designers are happy to offer consultancy for free before starting to build your website. So make sure you have a chat and ask for one or, ideally more opinions before deciding upon the final look of your website.
  3. Even before asking an expert, make some research on what you should expect from an “expert”. While there will be plenty of web masters ready to build your website (NB if they charge you more it doesn’t mean that they are better or that they care more about your business), it will not be so easy to find someone who has the bigger picture, and understands your business needs and your target market.
  4. Lastly, feel free to read articles. There are plenty of blogs like ours, and even better. At the bottom of this articles, we have a list of links ready to take you on your safe discovery journey.

Scenario B.

You already have your website up and running, but just realised how many mistakes you’ve done with it:

  1. Don’t panic! Everything is not lost. There’s no need to re-start everything from the scratch. Make some research (if you’re reading this, you’re probably doing so) and start fixing issues one by one.
  2. If you don’t think you can manage to fix the issues on your own, ask your website manager to hep. Or get some help from some other webmasters if you need to.
  3. Ask for some usability expert advice. You can get it for free.
  4. Points 3 and 4 above are applicable.

 

Useful links:

  1. Nielsen Norman Group www.nngroup.com/topic/web-usability/  (Jakob Nielsen, principal of Nielsen Norman Group, has been called “the guru of web page usability” by The New York Times)
  2. www.userfocus.co.uk/resources/guidelines.html