Web Usability

Why is Usability Important?

There are different types of users, including users with cognitive disabilities or non-native speakers, who prefer a variety of interfaces such as mobile, keyboard-only, or assistive technologies. The content of the webpage must be usable and simple enough for all users to understand. This will allow content creators to reach out to a wider audience and have the message be comprehensible. Accessible websites are a win-win situation for users and content creators.

Website owners can use analytics to quantify that your online users are seeing the content you think is important.  You can see how many visits are coming to your pages, how long are they staying, and how often are they finding the pages you think are critical.  If you have content on your site that is not seeing the traffic you think it deserves then try moving it, or making it easier to find.  The web is a living document and will need care and maintenance over time. 


What Is Usability?

Usability is about designing content with a user-friendly approach. When developing a website, it is important to consider the user experience, which refers to how users will interact with a website. Creating a user-friendly interface will allow for ease of access, understanding, and use of the information, which can make all the difference for users.  Coming up with great designs take time and energy and on-going changes.  


The message Meets User's Needs

Web owners should have a clear understaning of what their website is going to do.  What questions does it answer, what process does it explain, what is the use that users should get out of it?  If you are taking ownership of a website you didn't create try and see if you can answer these things clearly and easily.  A website is a virtual representation of your physical office space.  If Campus users are coming to site it should be like they are coming to your door.

Communication with online users takes more care to create.  Users can be visual learners, auditory learners and they can also vary by age and prior knowledge. For instance, visual learners may need charts, graphs or illustrations to help them understand the material. On the other hand, auditory learners may need to hear podcasts or watch videos to interpret the information.

It is important to keep in mind the different perspectives and methods of interaction each user will have. When constructing an application or website, expect users to make errors. Try to anticipate where users will go wrong and create designs that mitigate this possibility.


Visual Simplicity, Less is more

Web content must be simplified.  Writing for web is a skill and like any skill it takes time to get it right. This is not to say that content should be “dumbed down” or overly simplified for users. When its too simplified, it could result in missing information. The content should be simple enough so that users can understand the information and leave little room for misinterpretation.


Design Architecture

The design architecture must always be organized, structured and labeled in such a way that will make it easier for users to know where they are, what they have found, and what to expect on the webpage (usability.gov).  

  • The website design should be predictable and simple.
  • Websites should choose a common theme or style and develop using a single voice for consistant content references.
  • Should encompass all critical functions of a website specific to the type of user (e.g., student, staff, and faculty).
  • Creating unique structures and navigation methods may leave website visitors confused and frustrated.