Usability can be defined as the set of techniques that are adopted to make a website easy for the visitor. Usability is an important aspect of web designing since it facilitates the accomplishment of tasks efficiently and search operations for the required information. Usability revolves more around the concept of completing things faster than the aspect of providing convenience (About.com, 2010). There are many sources that claim to provide comprehensive guidelines for high usability level. The content on these numerous sources needs to be evaluated for its validity and judged if the stated factors really enhance the usability level.
2. Usability Guidelines
The number of websites and web pages increase exponentially every month. The following figure shows the increase in websites over the years:
Figure 1: Increase in websites (Netcraft, 2010)
Such an increasing number of websites creates a daunting need for it to be equipped with usable tools and efficient navigational capabilities. Some factors are stated below that enhance the usability of a website:
A tag-line should be inserted in the website to portray the main purpose of the product/company/service. This will help the user to understand the objective of the website in a quicker manner (Nielsen, 2002).
Accumulate all the company related information in one area of the website to facilitate faster access to information.
‘Search Input Box’ should be placed on the website to identify the places of the required information rather than browsing through the entire content.
Ensure that navigation is kept easy for the users. Remember that the main page is not the only entry page therefore ensure proper relation exists with the entire architecture of the website (Key Relevance, 2008). Correct labeling is done on every page to guide the user about his location.
Do not keep information dispersed on the whole site. On the contrary, all pages should be at most three clicks away from the main page (Key Relevance, 2008).
Links should have a different font color so that they can be identified instantly by the user.
Help instructions are easily available.
Users can cancel any operation at any time (Information Services and Technology, n.d.).
Sitemap is provided to make the user understand the structure of the website.
Every page size should be aimed to be kept less than 50k so that slow connection users do not experience slow navigation (Information Services and Technology, n.d.).
3. How should usability be measured?
Usability guidelines are claimed to be developed by many sources around the world. However recognized organizations should be responsible for the formulation of such guidelines for example. put links for these sites
US Federal Usability.gov guidelines (Usability.gov, n.d.),
W3C usability guidelines (Interseller, 2010)
These guidelines should be considered as standards and should be followed by developers and designers to provide their users with efficient navigation and easy access to information. Following such guidelines makes the user’s visit a pleasant one and stops him from leaving the site for another one.
Usability can be measured by qualitative as well as quantitative measures.
Quantitative measures involve the determination of the pace with which the tasks are performed and how many errors are made during that time.
Qualitative measures denote the level of satisfaction that the user has after the usage of the respective tools (Lynch & Horton, 2008).
About.com, (2010), Usability, Retrieved from: http://webdesign.about.com/od/usability/g/usability.htm
Interseller, (2010), Usability Analysis, Retrieved from: http://www.interseller.com/usability_analysis.html
Information Services and Technology, (n.d.), Usability Guidelines, Retrieved from: http://ist.mit.edu/services/consulting/usability/guidelines
Key Relevance, (2008), Collected Web Site Usability Tips, Retrieved from:
Lynch, P., J., Horton, S., (2008), Web Style Guide, 3rd edition: Basic Design Principles for Creating Web Sites, Yale University Press
Nielsen, J., (2002), Top Ten Guidelines for Homepage Usability, Retrieved from: http://www.useit.com/alertbox/20020512.html
Netcraft, (2010), August 2010 Web Server Survey, Retrieved from: http://news.netcraft.com/
Usability.gov, (n.d.), Guidelines, Retrieved from: http://www.usability.