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Inside the Mind Of A Usability Expert

Posted on 9.07.2005

With as many definitions of website usability as there are usability experts, you would figure that somewhere along the line this important aspect of Web design and development would have revealed a formal, practical standard by which site owners can abide (or in the least a basic definition to understand). Unfortunately, usability is still misunderstood by many site owners, designers and Web developers and very often attempts to make a site more usable results in making matters worse for end-users.

In order to keep Internet users at your website longer, WSM has outlined some general usability issues and their respective solutions.
  

Design Consistency:  There are few things as frustrating to end-users as inconsistent design. While unique landing pages or home pages are perfectly acceptable in the minds of most users, the remainder of a website should have the same look and feel. One way to achieve this is through the use of cascading style sheets (CSS) which enable designers to formalize font sizes and styles across an entire website.
  

Site Navigation: Site navigation is an integral part of a highly usable website. While some usability experts will tell you to link only to page related to the page a user is visiting, others recommend grouping related navigation in clusters and making all sections immediately available. Cluster grouping (most ideal for ecommerce sites) provides users one click access to every section of a site and the pages within those sections which receive the most traffic from users. This type of link grouping is easily integrated into existing designs using server side includes (SSI).
 

Search Functionality: Providing end-users with the ability to effectively search for individual pages containing information on products or services should be considered a usability priority. When search boxes or available links are easily accessible, visitors and current customers alike will use the search function to locate information you may not make immediately accessible through site navigation such as archived materials. Higher end on-site search tools also enable site owners to see what users are searching for. 
 

 

Instant Survey: Sitemap Usability
Do sitemaps make a difference in effective site design and usability?

 

Determining Your Site's Usability
"Usable" websites receive better results when it comes to generating sales and securing the return of online prospects than do sites with major usability problems. Most consumers will look past minor usability problems but there is typically more than just one usability issue on a website – they usually go hand in hand with other issues. Web site owners simply must remember that their web site is the potential customer’s first impression of their business and this means that it is important to provide a user experience that is consistent, clear and functional. When it comes to usabilty - ask your users what works for them and what does not and base your site architecture and design in many respects on your users themselves.

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