5 Ways to Improve the Usability of Your Web Site

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1. Navigation – Consistent and intuitive navigation should be present throughout the site. Remember that the home page is not the only entry point for the site – users should be able to understand the site’s interface without having visited the home page.

    ◦   Bread crumbs should be added to the navigation with links to indicate what page the user is on in respect to other pages. Example: Home > Topic > Topic

    ◦   A search features should be available on every page and search results should be relevant.

    ◦   A Site map should be available and contain links to the main topics.

    ◦   A link to the home page should be present on every page. It is customary for this link to be associated with the logo.

    2. HTML Validation – Use an HTML validation tool to check for errors. Cleaning up the HTML will help ensure that the site’s interface appears the same in most browsers, including Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Google Crome. A good rule of thumb is that HTML tags should only be used in the manner in which they were intended. It is also important to make sure that there aren’t any broken links on the site.

    3. Custom 404 Page – A custom 404 page should include the site’s usual navigation and search functionalities, and should also contain a list of the site’s main topics.

    4. Optimize the Checkout Process – Refer to the site’s web analytics to determine whether or not visitors are completing the checkout process. Losing customers may be as simple as requiring a mailing address, as some customers would prefer to buy a product without filling out a long form. Usability issues to consider include the shopping cart’s ease of use, payment terms, cart accessibility, and instructions.

    5. Mobile Usability – Mobile usability is becoming increasingly more important as more users are accessing websites from their cell phones.

      ◦   Meet Users’ Needs – Make sure the mobile site includes the type of information your users may want. Mobile users are more likely to want information that will help them at that location or time, such as event information or directions to venues. Users may also want entertainment to pass the time. Try to predict the type of information that your visitors will need, and provide that information.

      ◦   Simple Navigation – Mobile screens are much smaller, so the navigation should be included at the bottom of the web site instead of the top. This will ensure that users will not have to scroll down to quickly access information. Additionally, the layout should be simple and not include internal links that aren’t relevant to mobile users . A simple site map may be a useful way to help visitors easily navigate through the site.

      ◦   Simple User Input – If possible, allow users to input information by selecting items instead of entering text. Entering text on a mobile phone may take too much time for users who want to access information right away.

      ◦   Distinguishable Selected Items – Selected items should stand out from other items. This can be done by changing the font and background colors of buttons and links.

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