Web usability is about making the web more usable for people who go online.
It is about making websites easier to navigate which in turn help people find what they need faster. As we know, people like you and I go online to look for information, to learn more about a specific product or service before we commit ourselves to buying a product or a service.
When websites are not designed to be usable, then I cannot find the information I want. In short, this frustrates me and I leave and the business loses a potential customer.
Regardless of whether you are selling a service or a product, making your website usable is one of the key elements in ensuring you have a steady stream of satisfied prospects and customers, who come back again and again and hence, producing for you a sustainable and profitable business.
What makes a website usable?
A website consists of a number of web pages. These web pages contain graphics, text, colours and logo. How these elements are arranged is the difference between making a sale or making your customer frustrated.
Web usability focuses on the customer.
At every step of the way, your website must be designed with the customer in mind.
The problem is, many websites do not do this.
They are designed to look great and perhaps elicit a couple of wows but whether the websites actually function in the way customers want are not taken into account at all.
When this happens, customers are confused and frustrated, unable to locate the information they want and leave with a bad impression of the business. This defies the very reason websites are created. Websites are created to communicate, not irritate!
What can I do to make my website more usable to customers?
Design with consistency
If your menu links are on the left, ensure it is on the left on all pages of your website. If you have a logo on the left top corner, ensure the logo is on the left top corner on all your webpages.
Links in same window
If you link to other pages within your website or link out to other websites, ensure your link opens up in the same window. Most users usually use their Back button to get back to the original web page. If your link opens up in a new window, users would not know and would not be able to use their Back button at all.
Be simple and direct
There’s no prize for being clever online so name your navigational links in easy, simple and clear language. Users don’t like to guess what’s behind a link like “Knowledge Repository” but they do know what “Free Articles” are. Language must be simple and direct so that everyone, regardless of their educational level, can understand when they arrive at your website.
Users do not like reading online because it is 25% slower than conventional print reading according to http://www.useit.com. Users prefer to scan websites for vital information. So if you want to help them scan faster, chunk your information into bulleted lists.
Keep one idea per paragraph and keep paragraphs short. Use bold text or headlines to highlight important information. Align your text to the left because this helps users read faster.
Websites must download fast or you lose the visitor. You have less than 10 seconds to capture your visitor’s attention. To ensure your website downloads fast, design with the assumption that every web visitor is using an old computer, accessing your website using dial-up Internet services. Other methods include optimizing website graphics and reducing time-wasters such as Flash graphics.