Website usability refers to how well visitors interact with a website. Websites with good usability allow users to surf a website quickly and easily. A website which has good usability is designed with the site visitor in mind. Websites that are focused on visitor’s expectations have a better chance for success.
So why does web usability matter? Most websites out there do not have good usability making it hard for Internet users to find what they want. Internet users are often impatient and many websites out there make it hard to find information. If visitors have to search a website to find the information they are looking for they will not stay. Since there are millions of websites on the Internet, visitors are in constant search for websites that have good usability.
In order to have good usability, website functions need to be easy for visitors to grasp. What good is a website if visitors do not stay on it because they can’t find or it is hard to find what they are looking for? For example: if a visitor goes to an online store to purchase a specific product and they can’t find it, they will leave the store which leading to decreased sales. Now that you have determined that site usability is important, let’s discuss how to determine if a website has good usability.
In order to have good usability, websites should be carefully planned out focusing on visitors needs. The goals of a website should be determined and the website should be designed around those goals. The needs of a website visitor should also be considered in the planning stages of a website. By placing yourself in the shoes of a visitor and going to your competitor’s websites, it will help you determine exactly what a site visitor needs and what your site should have. If you have an online store visitors will want and expect to find certain information about your products, like prices and descriptions. The store design should allow for that information to be prominent and easily accessible by visitors. If important information is not visible or easily accessible a website does not have good usability.
Since websites vary in nature it is impossible to generalize what makes a website have good usability. It is however possible to point out usability requirements that can be generalized for all websites. The navigation of a website is one of the biggest factors in determining usability.
The navigation on a website should show visitors where they are and/or what website they are on. By showing your company name or domain name throughout the website it reminds visitors what website they are on, allowing them to remember you easier. Having your website information visible on all pages also makes a website look less like a phish site making it more user friendly. Navigation on a website should also include links to pages where visitors can go throughout the site. Page navigation gives visitors quick access to find the information they are looking for thus allowing visitors ease of use.
Navigation on a website should also be consistent throughout an entire site. The home page and inner pages of a website should all have the same or similar navigation bar links to allow visitors ease of use. If navigation bars are not consistent, visitors can get confused or frustrated and will cause them to leave your website.
The navigation links should also use appropriate wording that will not confuse visitors. Visitors should not have to guess where a link will bring them. For example: the link to a web page about a company should be called “About us” or “About our company” so when visitors click on the link they know right where they will go. Text link wording should also be emphasized to make it easy to read. Formatting can be used to make links bold or underlined and stand out more so they are not hard to find, allowing visitors to easily find web page links. Good wording and formatting of navigation links give websites better usability.
Navigation bars should always include a link to a website’s home page. This is mostly because not all visitors enter a website on the home page. If a visitor enters a site via an inner page they should have easy access to the home page and all other inner pages. Having a navigation bar that meets all of the above criteria helps increase website usability.
In addition to a good navigation bar, user friendly websites should also have a text-based site map. A link to the site map should be placed on every page of a website. Site map links allow visitors ease of access regardless of what page they may be on. Site maps are a place lost visitors can turn to find their way around a site and are also great for allowing search engine spiders to crawl an entire site.
Disabling the back button on a website is one of the worst things that a website can to decrease usability. If a visitor is lost on a website and they want to go back to where they entered a site or go back to a page they previously viewed, they are likely to use the back button. If a back button is disabled visitors will get frustrated and probably leave a website.
Aside from navigation and links, the content on a website can also increase or decrease usability. Website content should be clear and simple. You never know who is visiting your website, so having content that is easily understood by most people is important. If a website’s content has long, difficult words visitors which are not familiar with that vocabulary will get confused and will probably leave the website.
Where content is located on a website should also be planned out. The most important content should be on top of a web page putting it right in front of a visitor. If content doesn’t catch a visitor’s eyes or they don’t see what they are looking for immediately they will leave a website out of frustration causing decreased usability. For instance, if an online store is having a sale, the sale information should be placed on the top of a page so people do not have to scroll down or look around to find that important information. If visitors cannot see that information when they first visit a page they are likely to not know about your sale which can lead to fewer sales.
In addition to the placement of content, it should also be easy for visitors to scan content. Important content or sections of content can be formatted using header tags, bold type, color or lists to make a website more user friendly. In order to have good usability, websites should also use good contrasting colors. If a website has a light background the text should be a darker color to make it easy to read. Easy to read content on a website is an important factor of usability.
Websites that have good usability should reinforce their brand throughout their site. Colors on a website should reflect the colors of a company. Not only should site colors be consistent with company colors, but those colors should also be consistent throughout an entire website. Visitors that see a home page with one theme then visit an inner page that is completely different are likely to think they were on different websites. Having a site design that is consistent throughout all pages is important in increasing visitor usability.
Another important factor in creating a user friendly website is to include contact information on every page. Contact information should include company phone number and company address and should be easily accessible to make visitors feel more comfortable on a site. Some internet surfers might think a website is illegitimate and leave a website if they do not see contact information.
In addition to having contact information on every page, a website should also have a contact page. The contact page should provide all contact methods and give visitors a method to easily contact a site administrator. This ability allows visitors to give feedback making them feel more secure and comfortable in using your website, thus increasing site usability.
One of the worst things a website can do is mess with scroll bars. Having a scroll bar on the inside of a web page is not user friendly at all. In order for visitors to read information on that page, they will have to scroll down. Having to scroll down to read information can lead to frustration and visitors leaving your site.
Marquees and animations are another annoyance that make websites less user friendly. Animations can distract visitors from the actual content on a website. Distracting from content can lead to visitors not reading what you intend for them to read leading to decreased usability.
Online Stores and websites in general should contain “calls to action” throughout the entire site. “Calls to action” allow businesses to plug what they want visitors to do. For instance, online stores should have “buy it now” options that allow visitors to easily buy products. If you want people to buy from your website, you need to put that option in front of visitors rather than visitors having to find it themselves. If visitors have to search for ways to purchase products, the usability of that website is low.
Those are just some methods of determining website usability. Contact WebDuck Designs if you would like to learn other usability methods or if you would like to have a user friendly website built for your company. If you currently have a website but are not sure if it has good usability there are a couple of methods to check usability.
The easiest way to test usability on a website is to have people visit it. Since websites should be designed with visitors in mind, they should be able to easily navigate through your website. User friendly websites allow visitors to locate the links and content they want with ease. Ask visitors if they can navigate with ease throughout your entire website, if they get stuck on a page with no way out than there are issues with usability.
If visitors cannot move around your site without problems, ask them what is wrong with the website and what would make it a better experience. Find out if visitors understand the purpose of your website. If your site goal is to sell products, make sure that visitors can tell you that and if they can’t there are usability issues with your website. Ask visitors if they would return to your website again. If you have large amounts of quality information on your website visitors are likely to also refer their friends.
To determine website usability it is best to not only have it tested by visitors but to also review site statistics. Analytics from a website can tell you if visitors like your website and if it has good usability. If the bounce rate on a website is over 50% that means that visitors are not staying. Visitors are going to a website, not finding what they are looking for or not liking the look of the website and leaving it immediately. When a website has good usability the bounce rate is likely to be below 50%.
The entrance and exit pages of a website can also be used to determine usability. If the home page is your number one entrance page and is also your number one exit page that means visitors are not searching around your website. Visitors can either not locate the link or information they want or they are not satisfied with the overall look of your website. Websites with good usability will show a high number of visitors entering a site on one page and a different page will be the highest exit page.
Contact the experts at WebDuck Designs if you would like a website analysis to determine visitor usability or if you are having problems with usability on your current website.