How to increase Website Usability
Over the past decade, we have grown accustomed to certain (minimum – at the least) standards in web design. One thing that we know is that in order to make a lasting impression on your visitors, building experiences that go beyond those of a plain, usable website is crucial. With that said, this does not mean that usability has become any less of an important factor. If anything, it just takes on a different role in web design, now forming the basis for great user experience.
Usability means user-centered design. Both design and development processes are focused around your prospective user — to ensure their goals, mental models & requirements are met — to build products that are efficient and easy to use. Here are 5 key principles of good website usability. Don’t forget to take these into consideration when you embark on your next project!
Availability & Accessibility
We’ll start off with the most basic, yet central aspect of usability: the availability and accessibility of your website. Should people hop on to your website and find that it isn’t working — for whatever reason that may be –your website becomes pretty much worthless!
Here are a few of the basics of Availability and Accessibility
Server Uptime – It is crucial to ensure that your visitors don’t get an error trying to load your website. A way of getting around this issue is to invest in a good hosting service/plan.
Broken links – Double, even triple check that there are no dead/broken links on your website. Nothing annoys a visitor and sends them back to their Google search results faster than that dreaded 404 pages.
Mobile Responsiveness – This one is something that you should already know by now. Ensure that your website can load on different screen sizes, devices and even on slow connections.
The very core of usability is clarity. If your visitors get distracted or confused, they will take a much longer find what they came for, or even forget their initial goal altogether. Either way, they will not experience your website as user-friendly and will probably leave dissatisfied, without any intention of ever coming back again. This dissatisfaction may even drive them in the direction of visiting your competitor’s websites instead.
Visitors hop onto your website with specific goals in mind. It is your job to help them reach these goals in the most efficient way possible. If you can pull that off, your visitors will be satisfied and you have laid the groundwork for a positive experience.
A clear & usable design can be achieved through:
Simplicity – Focus on what is most important. Ensuring visitors are not distracted means they are more likely to do what you want them to do.
Familiarity – Stick to what people are already familiar with. There is nothing wrong with looking at other sites for ideas and inspiration.
Consistency – Create a consistent experience across your entire site to keep your visitors mind at ease and not confuse them.
Guidance – guide your visitors step by step. Don’t expect your visitors to explore your entire site all on their own. Instead, guide them through your site with organized menus etc and show them what you have to offer.
Direct feedback – feedback is essential to any interaction. The second people interact with your site, make sure to offer an indication of success or failure of their actions.
Good information architecture – try to understand your visitors’ mental models and how they would expect you to structure the content on your website.
Learnability is another key factor in the aspect of usability. It should be one of your goals to design intuitive interfaces — interfaces that don’t require instructions or a long process of trial and error to figure them out. The key to intuitive design is to utilize what people are already familiar with or create something that is new but at the same time easy to learn.
In this day and age, most people are familiar with a lot of design concepts used on the web. By using these concepts consistently, you will meet your visitors’ expectations and help them reach their goals a lot faster.
Should you want to utilize fresh concepts in your design, make sure to use them consistently and give people a hand during the initial learning phase. For example, you can offer additional information or instructions the first time they visit your site or use your product. Just remember to keep it simple and visual.
Credibility is another critical element in any website. Even if people find what they’re looking for, if they don’t think you are a credible source, that content is worthless. Your website could cause site visitors to be skeptical about your business in ways such as your reputation or the quality of your content.
It is of great importance that people know you are a legitimate company with real people. Offer a clear “About Us” page together with contact details and, if possible, a physical address.
Content certainly also plays a huge role in the perceived trustworthiness of your website. Ensure that you are honest and precise about your content. Incorrect grammar or typos are a definite no go. Be sure that if you are an expert in your field, people are made aware of it. Testimonials, references, media kits or links to your social media platforms are a great way to lend more credibility to your site.
Last but definitely not least, relevancy contributes greatly to good website usability. Not only must your website is clear, but your content also needs to be highly relevant. Again, it is essential that you know your target audience, their needs and why they visit your site.