Here are nine factors of website usability you will want to keep in mind when you design a website.
Brand Identity / Digital Branding
Bridging the gap between the traditional marketing and online marketing campaigns is critical for clean branding. All images and slogans should be the same as often as possible. Confusing the user by not presenting the same look and feel as the TV, Radio, and traditional advertisements will hurt the brand. It is takes a long time to build a brand but a very short time to destroy it. Inconsistent branding causes the users to assume the company does not know what the left hand is doing compared to the right.
Similar tasks should be performed similarly. Reduce the need for users to learn multiple behaviors and navigation paths. Terms and graphics should be consistent throughout the site. Processes should also be consistent throughout the site when appropriate. Users should not have to wonder whether different words, situations, or actions mean the same thing. Follow platform conventions.
A web site is a living document. It is always changing. Because of this, consistent feedback must be asked and acted upon. The site should provide users with timely information on processes and errors. This information should be communicated in clear, simple language. If users must or can take action, these actions must be clearly communicated to the user. For example, if a user is filling out a complicated form and missed a field to fill in. Don’t force the user to figure out which field they missed or if they entered a number with dashes or not.
The language and structure of the site should be designed to fit the language and mental conceptions of the end users and the limitations of the medium. Words, phrases and concepts should be familiar to the end user. For example, a financial site for the average person should not use terminology that is for financial experts and vica versa.
A well designed site uses language and code to prevent a mistake before it happens. This is done by educating the user as they go through a process and observing where users get confused and re-correcting that section of the process. A site should be structured to help users avoid making mistakes. Potential errors should be anticipated, as often as possible, and the site should be designed to reduce the possibility of potential errors.
The navigation of a site is like the steering wheel to a car. One of the top issues with navigation is the learn-ability of the navigation bar. Some sites have different navigation bars as you go through the site. This slows the user because they have to relearn the navigation system. Another common problem is the labels used on the navigation bar. Using words that are common on the web and target industry is crucial. A clean navigation system allows the user to get from one part of the site to another with as few as three clicks. Navigation should also be bi-directional, in other words, the user should know where they are at any time and how to get back to where they were.
The performance of a site can be effected by the site design as well as the users access and software used to view the net. For example, if the site has large images or slow code the user may not be able to download the page efficiently if they are on a dial-up connection. However, this may not be an issue if you are targeting customers with fast connections to the internet. Another issue is software compatibility. Are your users using MAC’s, PC’s, Netscape, Internet Explorer or AOL? If so, what versions? Often the site is designed on one browser and never checked on other browsers and browser versions.
We have all heard of the KISS principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid). On the web, it is critical since a web user will look elsewhere within seconds if they are confused about your shopping cart or an unorthodox navigation system. Simplicity of images and design can aid the user in capturing the emotional feel of the corporate image and subconsciously point them to the leading product or service sold. Tasks that are repeated over and over again should be simplified for the users comfort.
How often have you been to a site and found your self-looking at the screen trying to find the button or link of your interest? Visibility is creating the primary links, actions, and functions so they are obvious to the viewer, but not obnoxious. Another key aspect is knowing your user and what they are looking for. Effective titles and navigational aids should be provided to keep users informed of where they are and where they have come from.