How effective is your website at delivering the right information to users at the right time?
How can I judge the usability of my website?
Usability is a highly subjective thing to measure. However, it's widely understood that if a user can answer the following three questions positively from any page on your site, it's a good start:
- Do you know where you are?
- Do you know how you got there?
- Do you know where to go now?
How to improve usability
Follow these golden rules and your site's going to be pretty usable:
- Be consistent
Don't shuffle things around the page as you move through the site. If you establish a left hand navigation menu, don't suddenly swap it to right. Make sure links are labelled in a consistent fashion and don't change too much stylistically.
- Avoid ambiguity and jargon
Don't assume too much knowledge - nobody likes being bombarded with jargon they don't understand.
- Explain things thoroughly
Make sure you sanity check the site. Your users may have no understanding of the products or services your offer - hold their hand as much as you can.
- Don't over-complicate things
If something's simple, keep it that way
- Make it easy to navigate
The navigation menu(s) should be self-explanatory. If you use drop down menus, don't make it too hard for people to hover over or click on their desired option.
- Don't hide critical content
Don't rely on people hovering over certain elements to reveal important content - show what you need to show when you need to show it.
- Give appropriate feedback
If you have a form and it's not filled in correctly, make sure you give appropriate feedback.
- Make sure it works
There's nothing worse for a user than constant broken links and server error messages.
- Make sure users know where they are
Use navigation menus and/or breadcrumb trails effectively to keep a user informed as to where they are in the site and to give them a feel for how big the site is.
- Remember - every page is a homepage!
Don't assume users start on the homepage and follow the path you would like them to follow. They could potentially land on any page on the website.
- Don't get obsessed with reducing the number of clicks
Just like with a book, it might be appropriate to have a large number of pages. This is fine as long you index things properly. Reducing the number of clicks can, in fact, become a barrier to users finding what they need.
- Don't believe everything you read in a checklist!
All these rules are open to interpretation. The important thing - which is often overlooked - is that you need common sense.