You’ve come up with all of your content, added it in, and made your website look great. But none of that really matters if no one can actually use your site. In general terms, a website that has good usability is one that can be navigated easily and provides people with useful information. When making a website, this is one factor that must take prominence. Otherwise, the amount of traffic you’d receive would significantly drop, due to a lack of navigability and people not being able to easily retrieve the information they desire. The term Usability means user-centred design. Both the design and development process are focused around your prospective user(s) – to make sure their goals, mental models, and requirements are met. Doing this builds products that are efficient and easy to use.
Here are a few key principles for good website usability.
Availability – Availability is a basic yet central aspect to usability. If people try to access your website and it doesn’t work for whatever reason, it therefore becomes worthless to them and they’d be more likely to go elsewhere.
Server Uptime – It’s important that your visitors don’t get an error trying to load your website, invest in some good hosting. You don’t want to have your website be hosted by a server that regularly loses functionality or has set times where your website is unavailable.
Broken Links – Double check that there are no dead links on your site. If there are, content may be completely inaccessible unless the user can remember the individual URL.
Mobile Responsiveness – Make sure your site can efficiently operate on different screen sizes, devices and connections speeds. Not everyone will have access to a steady network or a “high-end” system.
Amazon is a good example of a website with good usability. Its desktop version is optimised for both tablets and desktops. The mobile app is clean and clutter free. They have almost no downtime and even state “We’re always looking for ways to improve usability of the site for our customers, including those with disabilities.”
It could be said that the core of usability is Clarity. If you distract or confuse your visitors, they will either need more time to find what they came for, or they might forget their initial goal all together. Either way, they will not experience your website as user-friendly and chances are that they leave dissatisfied and with no intention of coming back.
A clear and usable design can be achieved through:
Simplicity – Focus on what’s important.
Familiarity – Stick to what people already know.
Consistency – Keep a consistent design across your entire website so you don’t confuse the user.
Good Information Architecture –Understand your visitors’ mental models and how they would expect you to structure the content on your site.
Credibility is a crucial part to any website. Even if people find the content they are looking for, if they don’t trust you, that content is essentially worthless. Your website could cause visitors to be sceptical about your business in any number of ways including whether or not you really exist, your reputation, or the quality of your content.
It is important that people know you are a real company with real people. Offer a clear “About Us” page together with your contact details and if possible a physical address. That way, your site users can gain a sense of human connection rather than feel like they are dealing with robots who don’t care about anything other than money or “hits”.
The brand L’OREAL does a great job when it comes to building web credibility.
Besides the professional design, which matches the exquisite reputation of the brand, they offer a lot of high quality content to demonstrate their expertise.
Last but not least, relevancy contributes to good website usability.
It is not enough that your website is clear, your content must also be relevant. Again, it is essential that you know your users and why they visit your site.
Nike has done an exemplary job in prioritising their content with focus on their users. The brand offers sportswear and equipment for numerous sports and activites. When accessing their website, you can choose how you wish to navigate by selecting to filter stock by Men, Women, or Kids, or you can even browse by individual sports.
Now you know the importance usability plays in websites, you need to put it into practice. Below are a few questions you can ask yourself about the website you’re creating;
Does it serve an identifiable purpose?
Is it “learnable”: Can people figure out how to use it?
Is it “memorable”: Do people have to relearn how to use it each time they visit and can they remember aspects about it easily?
Is it “effective”: Does the website get its job done?
Is it “desirable”: Do people want/have need for it?
Is it “efficient”: Can people navigate and retrieve items within a reasonable amount of time and effort?
Does using the website prove to be a pleasurable or even fun experience?
Once you can answer yes to most, preferably all, of the above questions, then you know that your website can stand alongside the best the internet has to offer.