An unusable website is destined to be a testimonial for your competitors.
When planning, designing, and developing a website, one of the biggest factors to take into consideration is usability.
Usability refers to a smooth, valuable, working relationship between the visitor and the website. Difficulty with navigation, broken links, and unintuitive experiences all play a role in a usable website. Website usability in the eyes of the visitor is that which is simple, and delivered in a logical manner.
Consider an offline experience most of us have had in regards to usability. If you’re reading this book you most likely have intimate knowledge of how to drive a car and have probably done so more times than you can count. Nevertheless, have you borrowed a friend’s car? Turning on the wipers or turning off the stereo can suddenly become a stressful, harrowing experience.
I’ve posted about this before, but this post is best described as an update to the previous post about usability. If you want up-to-the-minute usability advice and actions, here’s a list of the top 10 Usability Experts to follow on Twitter.
Avoid Frustrating Your Visitors
However, just like operating a motor vehicle, we’ve all visited websites and they (for the most part) operate with same bells and whistles, but in a foreign experience we can easily get tripped up and wind up frustrated.
This is where usability planning and implementation come into play for a website. As professional website designers and developers, we have to guide the user as much as possible without it seeming like we’re coddling them in order to deliver an easy to use, intuitive experience.
Basic Website Usability Checklist
Let’s assume your visitors have found your website. Ask yourself:
- Are they able to actively and effectively use your website?
- How does your logo react to a click? Does it do anything? Does it always lead back to your homepage?
- Text links, is it clear that they are ‘clickable’?
- Is the navigation clear? Is your navigation constructed in a manner consistent with the natural flow of information for your niche?
- Can people find what they want quickly, and easily without moving forward one, two or three steps only to hit the back button or worse, leave?
- Does that navigation remain consistent from page to page?
- Is your most important content no more than 3 clicks away from a given landing page?
- Are your visitors clicking on non-interactive parts of your pages? In other words, do your design elements confuse your visitors into thinking a click may lead to a page reload, a download, further information, etc. (if your not sure, try ClickTale for site heatmaps.
- Do you have a sitemap? For help creating one, us this sitemap tool.
- Do your broken pages 301 redirect to new, relevant content? You should be using Google Webmaster Tool to find your 404 errors.
- Is your content focused and easily scanned by your users?
- Does your content talk to your visitors or is it too much about YOU?