We’ve all had the experience of being on a website and wondering what happened or what we should do next? For example, if we’re searching for information (looking for a good web developer, say) and get confused, most of us are not going to fight with the website. Instead we are probably likely to hit the browser’s back button and try the next website in the web search.
One of the first web design books, “Don’t Make Me Think” (by Steve Krug in 2001) addresses this idea of web usability. Steve’s ideas state make it easy and clear, exactly how to do something online. Even 12 years on, Steve’s ideas apply.
Dan Bower, president of Bower Web Solutions, a programmer and developer in his own right, has a standard answer when a customer asks for a manual for an application, “If the end users needs a manual we didn’t do our job right.” An application, website or program should follow standard web conventions and be intuitive and easy to use. Of course, the back end of an application, like the software that runs this site, might be quite complex.
Basics For Making Your Website Easy To Use
Follow Web Conventions
Unless you’re Google, users will spend most of their time on other websites, so good web design follow the established conventions. A classic example is underlining for emphasis online. Since underlining is used for links on most sites, users expect all underlining to be a link. But we’re not on typewriters anymore and website designers have many other typographical choices for emphasis from italics all the way to big bold bright colors.
Other common convention examples include logos in the upper left, navigation bars being near the top or left side of the page, contact being the last navigation bar element, the logo linking back to the home page, and phone #s or contact information in the upper right. By following conventions, designs may be more conventional but they are also easier to follow.
Good Web Usability Is Common Sense
In a lot of ways, good web usability is really just common sense. But like common sense, good web usability is only obvious when it is pointed out. We’ll even admit that I catch a lot of usability issues sometimes months after a project is finished when I revisit a site to edit it and have to think how I to do something.
Writing For Usability
Clear writing with headlines, sub-headlines, short punchy paragraphs and lists and links within the content to other pertinent pages help the user by making reading easier. A website is not a novel and rarely will a user read all of a site. Rather, users are looking for a specific piece of information or perhaps trying to get an overall impression of a company. If the user has trouble getting the information they want they are more likely to hit the back button and try a competitor than to dig deeply into the site to try to figure something out.
At Bower Web Solutions we have the experience to create a usable search engine optimized website quickly and economically. Feel free to contact us with your questions regarding web usability.