Website usability refers to the efficiency in which users are able to navigate throughout a site and effectively accomplish their goals. This may include locating information, downloading documents, making purchases, and so forth. One of main approaches for achieving usability is user-centered design, which is a process in which the needs, wants, and limitations of users are determined and taken into account during all of the developmental stages of the website. User-centered design differs from other approaches in that it attempts to optimize the website interface in a way that is easy for users to interact with it, instead of forcing the users to change how they interact to accommodate the interface.
Usability Factors to Consider
In general, the following factors should be taken into consideration when developing a website:
- Ease of learning – How quickly can first-time users understand the site’s interface?
- Efficiency of use – Once a user understands the interface, how quickly is he or she able to accomplish tasks?
- Memorability – If a user has previously encountered the site, will he or she be able to remember it well enough to effectively navigate through it again, or will the user have to relearn it?
- Errors – How often do users encounter errors while using the web site and how do they recover from these errors?
- Satisfaction – How much does the user like using the website?
- Website objectives – How well does the site meet your objectives?
Meeting Users’ Needs
Gathering data from users is essential for understanding how well they can find information a your website and how much they enjoy using the site.
- Evaluate Log Files & Analytics – Review data from log files and analytics to determine how users are interacting with the website’s interface.
◦ Are visitors encountering errors?
◦ What pages are they viewing most frequently?
◦ How much time are they spending on the site?
◦ What is the bounce rate for certain pages? If it’s high, what is the reason why?
- Online Survey – Provide an online survey to learn about how users feel about the website. Example questions to include are, “What information were you seeking on our site? Were you able to locate it?”
- Website Usability Test – Conducting a website usability test will help determine whether or not there are any usability issues, how often users encounter these issues, and whether or not they are satisfied with the interface. The types of questions that should be asked include:
◦ Have you visited this website before?
◦ What is your impression of the interface, including its colors, graphics, etc.?
◦ What are the three things you like most about the layout, and the three things that you like least about it?
◦ If you were to make a change to the site, what would it be?
◦ Will you return to this site? Why or why not?
Usability tests can be conducted both in person and remotely. It is important to not only collect data from the test, but also to update the web site in accordance to the data.