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Usability 201

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009 by | Filed Under: Web Design
 
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In the Usability 101 tip, usability was defined and the reasons for making a website usable stated. Usability 101 was a generic usability tip applicable to all products. In this tip, we’ll focus on usability for web sites and blogs. You can use this as a checklist to ensure your website or blog is usable.

Navigation
Imagine surfing a site that you have to think hard just to get to a category or section. After tremendous perseverance, you’d figure it out. But, isn’t that an absolute waste of your time? Many customers would rather look for a similar site with easier navigation. Therefore, easy navigation is critical!

Here are a couple of examples of great navigation panels:

image

image

For more information on Navigation Panels, read the Persistent Navigation Panel Worldstart tip.

Content
The placement of the content is critical. Place the most relevant content on the home page. For example, www.amazon.com has items that they want to push out placed on the home page. However, it can be enhanced if the items on sale could be accessed more quickly. For example, www.bigdaysale.com puts the sale item of the day on the home page. This gives the customer quick access to the relevant revenue-generating content. The number of clicks required when customer purchases a product is important. However, it is more important to ensure that the customer succeeds in purchasing. Where required, you should give corrective feedback to get the customer back on track.

Similarly, for content sites, such as www.brighthub.com and any news channel web site, the most relevant content is displayed first. For example, Worldstart.com displays the tip of the day:

image

For more information, read the WorldStart tip: Best Practices for Writing on the Web.

Use Whitespace
Whitespace helps you to demarcate text and objects on a web site. If you place them to close together the readability goes down. Placing text or objects too closely is a major no, no! Whitespace helps the customer clearly identify each object on website.

For more information, read the WorldStart tip: Reduce Visual Noise with Whitespace.

Colors
Have you noticed how many websites and print magazines use black font over a white background? This is because Black on White is the most “readable” combination for text. Similarly, suppose you have a dark background and slight less dark text, the readability would plummet. Another important point is that the font size and color should aid readability. Not always does a large font make it easier to read.

For example, can you read the text below?

image

Don’t strain your eyes. Try reading the example shown below:

image

The former requires you to have a 20/20 vision. The latter has greater contrast between the two colors, white and brown, which makes it more readable. Similarly, can you imagine Amazon.com having a dark background? The product images wouldn’t be clear. A product that people cannot see, they will not buy!

Links
Broken links and 404 Page Not Found errors are major deterrents to the customer. Make sure you check your site thoroughly for this. In addition, make sure the links have intuitive names. For example, if the content is about installing a hard disk, then call it “How to Install a hard disk?” Do not call it, “Hard disk” Similarly, “Buy 3 Games for $100” has is more relevant than “Buy Games”.

Examples
Here is a short list of some blogs, ecommerce websites, and information websites that are designed to have a high degree of usability:

Blogs
www.mashable.com
www.webdesignerdepot.com

Ecommerce Websites
http://www.bigdailysale.com/
http://www.amazon.com/

Information Websites
www.brighthub.com
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/

~Rupen Sharma

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