Nowadays everybody has a Website. You have to do more than just throw up a site with good content to stand out. You’ve got to start by making your site usable. There is more to Website usability than just ensuring you do not have any broken links. Usability is all about getting your site visitors to the content they are looking for in an easy and intuitive way. You can have the best content in the world but if users have to think too much to move around and find what they want, they will be dissatisfied and go elsewhere.
Your site is usable if it is easy to get around, content is labeled and organized intuitively, workflows are not interrupted, load time isn’t excessive, and users can find what they want without having to read blocks and blocks of text. Web users have very short attention spans. If your site falls short on any of these fronts, you will lose visitors.
In Steve Krug’s, “Don’t Make Me Think,” he writes that you should make sure users never have to ask these questions:
Users should not have to decode your navigation. Use terms familiar with your audience and organize content in a way that makes drilling through it easy.
People read Websites differently from how they read a book. Web content needs to be broken into digestible chunks that are easy to breeze through. People are usually in a hurry and want to find the information they are looking for quickly. Make sure to write your content in a way that aids that mission.
Allow users to search your content. Many users will come to a new site and immediately look for a search box. Others will browse your site and only use the search feature if they have trouble finding what they need. Either way, make it easy for all types of users to find content on your site and provide the ability to search your content.
Make sure established workflows are never interrupted. For example, an e-commerce site should never prompt a user to do anything when in the middle of checking out. Make sure the checkout process is complete before asking customers to do something else. If you have a feedback form on your site, do not distract your users with other tasks on that page. Keep the forms simple and distraction free.
Do not make your users have to think about what is most important on your site. Make it easy for them. Important things should be obviously important. Less important things can fade back a bit. Providing visual hierarchy makes your content easier to scan and that leads to happier site visitors.
Sometimes it can be tough evaluating your own site’s usability. You have the curse of knowledge. You are intimate with the content and its organization so navigation might be obvious to you. Web usability testing or user testing is an invaluable part of ensuring that you’ve got it right.
Usability testing doesn’t have to be an elaborate expensive venture. Even getting just a few impartial outsiders to spend five minutes on your site can provide you with priceless information on how people perceive and move around your site.
Usability is crucial to the success of your site. Make sure to consider it when making any navigation, content and design decisions. It can make your site stand out among the clutter of all the rest.
What usability best practices do you consider most important when you visit a Website?
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