97% of business websites fail to earn a passing grade for usability. ~ Forrester Research
What is Usability?
Usability is simply the measure of how easy something is to use and how satisfied a user is with the process.
Why is Usability Important?
User-friendly web sites are much more likely to attract and keep users. Without proper usability, visitors will become frustrated or annoyed, resulting in less time spent on the site, fewer (if any) return visits, and ultimately less exposure for the business or organization.
- Can users easily find what they are looking for with a minimum of clicks?
- Is the content clear and free of confusing jargon?
- Does the site consistently support your brand?
- Is the site organized according to user tasks and goals?
- Does the site educate, entertain or enrich users to bring them back
again and again?
- Has the site been tested on real users?
How to Design a Usable Website
Designing a usable website begins with a clear understanding of your target users. Who are they, what brings them to your site, and what tasks or goals do they want to accomplish? The next step is to create the optimal match between user expectations and your business objectives and constraints in terms of content, organization, navigation, visual design and technology.
The Value of Usability Testing
Usability testing can identify and correct problems that visitors experience while using your website. The process is simple â€“ we consult with your targeted users by gathering feedback during design, and even after site launch, to continually improve the user experience.
The three most common factors measured in usability testing include:
Effectiveness: A user’s ability to successfully use a web site to find information and accomplish tasks.
Efficiency: A user’s ability to quickly accomplish tasks with ease and without frustration.
Satisfaction: How much a user enjoys using the web site.
Usability is one of the most under considered components in most business web sites today. When companies sit down to discuss building or updating a website, they typically start with their own agenda and plan from that foundation. What often results is a web site that is cumbersome, confusing, or entirely lacking for the end-user.
When building a site with usability in mind, the tables are turned and the user’s agenda is the foundation and from that an organization’s business objectives are incorporated. A usable web site will attract and keep the user because it will be intuitive to navigate, contain pertinent information in concise layouts, and ultimately, help the user meet his goals in the simplest, easiest manner.
If your Web site is not useful to users, it will never be used. In order for your Web site to be successful, users must visit the site to find information or accomplish tasks. No matter what objectives you have set for your Web site, it must carefully balance the needs of users and the needs of your organization. If users don’t find your Web site helpful, they will not use it, which will, in turn, prevent you from meeting your organization’s objectives.
Building or reconstructing a web site with usability as the guide requires a new way of thinking. By asking questions along the way about what is important to the user in addition to what goals a company may have, the resulting web site will undoubtedly become a user resource that supplements or promotes a company’s agenda.
Objectively considering the end-user’s needs, though it may not seem so, is often difficult for businesses to do because they are so entrenched in their own agenda. One of the most beneficial resources in usability focused web design is professional user research. By conducting interviews, focus groups, or other studies with the user, qualitative analysis can be provided as the road-map for web site design. Many studies have shown that a little bit of budget allocated to usability in the beginning results in a much greater ROI and savings down the road.
To learn more about usability and how important its role is in a successful web site, please explore the links below.
Supplemental information on usability:
- Full Article: The Website Usability Checklist
- Guide for Developing Usable and Useful Web Sites
- The Importance of the User Experience
- The ROI of Website Redesigns per Forrester
- The ROI of Usability
- Web Usability Notes – Steven Krug – Don’t Make Me Think