Idiot-proofing the Internet

Web usability and why it matters

When it comes to making websites or software applications, usability is key.

Usability means making sure that things work well for your consumers (and your employees). Developers who consider usability throughout the build of their site can help to ensure that people of average ability, understanding or experience can use it to obtain what they want, where they want it, and in the form that they are expecting.

In other words, web and mobile usability is about helping people to understand things by providing foolproof products.

But how do you make foolproof websites and applications? We’ve got four simple tips:

1. Make it obvious

Let’s be honest: people rarely read web pages. Instead, they scan them. They expect to find what they need at a glance — and the developer should accommodate this whim.

Make new, important or valuable features really obvious. Try using different typefaces, font sizes, colours, visual elements, call-to-action buttons and so on. These can help to guide the eye, clarify online processes, and direct the user to where they want to be.

For further tips about making your site self-explanatory, read on.

2. Don’t waste time

When consumers come to your website, they want something (answers, products, services, etc.) and they want it now. Web users are motivated by the desire to save time, and there are numerous ways that you can satisfy this need:

  • Provide intuitive navigation — Think of your website’s navigation as a roadmap; without one, your users could become terribly lost and annoyed. Try creating a clear hierarchy of important webpages, and ensure people can quickly and easily return to the homepage.
  • Utilise search bars — A search bar will not be necessary on every site, but you should consider its usefulness. Some people will immediately look for a search box when they enter a new site; this can be a great time-saving element.
  • Create succinct content — Web users want to get straight to the heart of your content. That means you should eliminate as much needless text as possible. Short and sweet!
  • Cater to habits — People are creatures of habit. When we find something that works, we tend to stick with it. Remain aware of ‘virtual norms’, and try to avoid catching your users unaware with unusual development or design elements.

 

3. Always user test

To create a great site or application, you have to user test. The purpose of usability testing is two-fold: you are improving the usability of your product, but you are also gaining data that can be used to improve your development techniques in future.

User testing could be as scientific as eye-tracking, or as simple as observing what participants do and say when using your website or application.

Through beta testing, A/B testing, surveys, focus groups, and other forms of user testing, you can record the performance and opinions of participants, uncover any problems or unsatisfied needs, and provide better web and mobile usability.

4. Remove the question marks

Our final tip is the most important one for you to take away.

Steve Krug, author of the renowned usability guidebook Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, reminds us that usability is not about technology — it’s about people, and how they use and understand your products.

For Krug, the first law of usability is to not make the user think. A person who looks at a web page should have no questions about what it is or how to use it. When you develop a website, your job is to remove the question marks.

There are many things on a web page that may make your consumers think unnecessarily:

  • Links and buttons that aren’t obviously clickable.
  • Cluttered or busy pages that overwhelm the user.
  • Poorly designed or absent navigation bars.
  • Obscure or confusing headlines, titles or names.
  • Unappealing design elements.

Question marks are the bane of good user experience. When a consumer stops to think, “Where do I go?”, “Can I click that?”, or “Why did they put that there?”, they are becoming distracted from your website — and possibly becoming less confident about your business.

To put it simply: usability matters. It’s about common courtesy, good design, and mindless choices being rolled into a memorable experience that reflects positively on your business — and it absolutely cannot be overlooked.

In the words of Steve Krug, a good portion of usability comes down to common sense. And like common sense, it may not be obvious until someone else points it out. Whether you need a fresh pair of eyes for an existing product, or a practised set of hands to create something new, núcleo is here to help.


Head to our website or get in touch to learn more about how we can use web and mobile usability to improve your business.

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