In plain words, Usability is the ease with which your website’s target audience can interact with your website. This means that the user understands what the website is about, and can find the information that she wants with minimum effort. There are multiple reasons why people can find one website easy to browse over another. The reason could be as simple as familiarity with the website layout. That is, the website elements are located in the places where the user expects them to be. Another reason could be the user’s familiarity with the information hierarchy, and the visual elements such as icons and colors used on the website. One way of finding out what your target audience prefers is to perform A/B tests.
No matter how big or small your website, you should perform these basic website usability checks before you put your website online.
If your website takes an unreasonable amount of time to load, there is a good chance that the website visitors will leave before the page loads and will not return. It is also one of the reasons that Google takes site speed as one of the parameters to rank websites on its search results page.
You can check your website speed using one of the many free website speed tools. Google provides webmasters with its page speed insight tool to measure how well the website scores on the speed ratings. It also highlights the problems on your website and provides suggestions to fix them.
Most Internet users now use multiple devices to browse, shop, and make online transactions. Make sure that your website is visible on mobiles and tablets and ensure that all the critical website elements are functional on these devices.
There are many services that you can use to test your website compatibility. These services analyze your website and provide you a detailed report on your website. @matthewferner, shares a list of free services that you can use to check if your website is compatible with different devices.
Navigating from one part of the website to the other is the most common and frequent task of your website’s visitors. Your website navigation system should be designed to facilitate these actions.
An efficient navigation system must provide the users a way to reach the most important parts of the website with minimum effort. This depends on the way you place your navigational elements, the way the menus are organized, the labels you use on your menus, and ultimately on the way your content is organized. The Treejack tool by Optimal Workshop helps you test your navigational tree based on the tasks you define on the test subjects of your choice.
Inconsistency in placement of website elements on different pages disorients the users. Similarly, using same colors and icons for different purposes on different pages can lead to confusion.
There is almost a universal consensus in the electrical industry that a red button is to switch the power off and the green is to switch the power on. Using different colors or worse, opposite color combinations will definitely lead to disastrous outcomes.
Some tips for consistency –
- Make sure that your menus appear in the same place on similar pages.
- Use same colors to indicate hyperlinks and same buttons for clickable elements
- Ensure consistent behavior across pages: if a video plays in a new window on one page, see that it behaves the same way elsewhere on your website
- Ensure that the website looks and behaves the same way in different browsers
Using common metaphors is an excellent way to organize your website content. Familiarity with a model or a metaphor helps users find information they are looking for and saves time and clicks. Failing to find information quickly, the users will wander away form your website and move on to the next provider.
For example, the IKEA website uses the house metaphor as the navigation system on its website. It is primarily a furniture and appliances seller and the shoppers are very familiar with different parts of the house. Chunking furniture and articles based on parts of a house makes locating items easier for its consumers as they can easily predict that a bed will be located under ‘bedroom’ or wrought iron furniture will be located under ‘patio’.
You need to identify your target audience and find out the primary tasks that you expect these users to perform. Your usability checks should be geared toward measuring how many of your users can perform these primary tasks and how quickly can they perform these tasks. A/B testing tools can help you determine which visual elements work better for your users and help you implement the right solution.
Failing to do these checks will affect your website ranking and reduce the number of visitors returning to your website.
Are you convinced you need to make these website usability checks? Please share your thoughts below, or share this post with your friends so they can also benefit.