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Web Site Usability Keeps Customers Returning
Web site usability is how easy your web site is for visitors to use. It can be hard to anticipate what visitors will find and the level of difficulty for them. The challenge is to make it as easy as possible for first time visitors. Visitors should find what they want at your website, it should accomplish the purpose they thought it would. If they can use your web site they will feel good about your company. Web sites should be designed with the user in mind not the message you want the user to read; web pages should about the user not your company. Selling your products can depend on whether or not people can use your web site. If they have trouble using your web site they certainly will not become a customer. Necessary components, such as navigation, must easy to see without searching for them and the way to use them must be immediately obvious.
Don’t Be Innovative
Being creative often means being different from the norm. People are comfortable with what they have already figured out how to use. Throwing different, confusing things at them only causes irritation and can loose customers. Don’t change the status bar or disable the back button. Visitors want comfortable, usable, conformity not new confusing and creative.
Home Page Link
The home page link should always be visible from all pages. The purpose of the web site should be clearly visible on the front page. The web site logo should link to the home page. The home page link is like a security blanket if a user gets lost they know they can always go back to the start.
No Surprises Please
Links should always be accurate and self-explanatory. Use correct link text. If a link leads to a PDF or Word Document use an icon to make this obvious. Also use the off-site icon if a link goes to another site. There should not be any pop up windows or background music. If the user must wait while the computer performs a process, inform the user, don’t just appear to be “stuck”. Visitors should never be surprised what page they have arrived at; the expected should always happen.
Links should be in underlined or otherwise obvious that they are links. Likewise visited links should be clearly indicated. Visitors should know what page they are on. Make sure all anchor text is the same size to prevent uncomfortable page shifting when a link is moused over. Links should be obvious they are links. Do not underline words that are not links.
Images & Graphics
Optimize images and do not include text in them use alt tags with all images. Only one moving gif or animation per page less is even better. Logos at the top of page containing text often look like a poorly scanned letterhead. Pictures should not contain text. Users should not have to wait on pages to load. Never use under construction graphics.
Text Should Be Scannable
Pages should be broken up in to easily readable, scannable chunks with sub headings in bold. Titles and subheadings should be relevant. Use caps properly only at the first letter in titles and first word in sentences. Use periods only once at the end of a sentence. Do not justify text. Allow text size to adjusted by the browser. This means the size of the text should be specified using with em's (em is the width of an M) or percent's not points or fixed properties. Leave control of text size with the user whenever possible. Use high contrast black text with a white background. Try to limit your entire website to just one or two fonts. San-serif text is best for computer screens. Serifs are the little tails some letters have.
No Sound Please
Respect the users environment. If sound is an integral part of your website have a link for users to request sound. This is a further statement of the principle that all actions on the web site should what the user anticipates; no surprises.
Let the user control the page, never take away control from the user. Fancy innovative pages do not impress users, pages that work as expected and accomplish the users purpose are the only thing that will impress them.
- The user should be able to accomplish what they want.
- The web site should behave as they expect
- They web site should not annoy them, keep it simple
- The web site content should be authoritative
- Allow the user to control the web site; don’t make decisions for them
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