|Navigating drop down menus that disappear before you can click, filling out forms for online payments that inexplicably clear themselves, finding yourself on a Web page having no clue how you got there or how to return to where you were—we’ve all been there. Few things are more frustrating in the online world than a website that stands between the user and the information they are seeking or an action they are trying to complete.|
That’s where website usability comes in. Website usability refers to how well users can navigate and use a website to achieve their goals (such as moving from one page to another, finding information, paying a bill or searching for a phone number) and how satisfied they are with that process. Generally, consideration of website usability occurs throughout the process of building a website, but it truly should be an ongoing basis.
Testing usability is part art, part science. While usability testing often is a highly technical process that requires special tools, it can be conducted on a smaller scale to provide basic insight that can be made to improve your site.
With this basic approach in mind, we’ve compiled key factors that affect usability with tips, tools and ideas to guide you on the path to happy website visitors and a website that rocks …
Start by forming a usability task force—a group of employees or volunteers willing to help you determine and rate how easy and effective your website is to use. Send invitations to participate with a fun computer-themed gift, like screen dusters or a USB pouch. Throw in an extra enticement with the promise of gift cards or a nice gift upon completion.
Once you’ve got the volunteers, you’ll want to assess how they use your website by asking them to complete a series of tasks. Record their experiences and follow up with them, asking:
After addressing tasks, move on to seek feedback regarding other aspects of your website, like readability, navigability and accessibility.
Readability refers to the copy and overall content on your site—is it easy to read and comprehend? Look at these indicators:
Navigability refers to how easily visitors to your site can move from one page on your site to the next. Navigability consists of a variety of things like menus, search boxes, links within the copy of a webpage and more. Consider these indicators to assess how your site measures up:
And finally, accessibility. This refers to how well people—especially visitors with disabilities or impairments like color blindness or limited mobility—can get to your site and interact with it once there. It also refers to the level of accessibility someone has with your site from varying electronic devices.This is especially critical with the rapid adoption of mobile devices, tablets, netbooks, Web-enabled TVs and gaming consoles. Internet users also have a much wider array of Web browsers than ever before: IE, Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera and so forth.
All of these options render our work in different ways and present interaction challenges. For example, selecting a link on a touchscreen tablet is completely different from clicking it on a desktop computer.
Take these considerations into account when performing Web accessibility analysis:
After compiling responses and feedback from your task force, follow through with your promise of a small gift, like a thermo lunch container, a T-shirt or gift card. Review your responses with your IT and marketing teams to brainstorm ways to improve the usability of your site. Then, implement to your heart’s content.
Your government agency’s website could be aesthetically pleasing with a plethora of information and crazy awesome functionality. Yet, if visitors to your site can’t figure out how to use it or how to access the information it contains, none of the bells and whistles will matter.
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