Usability Testing

Usability – Mother of All Lazybones

While making assumptions about your users is usually not the best course of action, one thing should be unconditionally accepted by any developer and site owner: do not waste their time! As clear and seemingly unobjectionable as this principle is, a lot of people struggle with its implementation and end up raising artificial barriers between users and coveted information. Why?

Some do it in a misguided attempt to stand out from the myriad of competitors, others – by carelessly believing that the content they provide would be valuable enough for people to willingly jump through any hoops (quick hint: that’s not going to happen).

In short, usability is a cornerstone of modern web design, and your user is an effective center of the universe, Copernicus be damned. It really doesn’t help that this perceived individual is probably rather demanding and spoilt.

In the world where virtually any piece of information is at our fingertips (with the advent of mobile – even more so), convincing someone to cope with an unwieldy UI or an unintuitive page layout is a Sisyphean task. For simplicity, thinking of the users as “lazy” might be a good solution for many designers, even if this is not actually true.

We just prioritize better and value our time more than we used to. Keep in mind that laziness and usability are compatible only on one end of this relationship – users’, and it is made possible by the hard work of designers and developers.

The more thought you put into the website design, the less effort is required on behalf of the end user, which is always a good thing. So, what may help your site attract people rather than scare them away permanently?

Can I Access It?

Seems trivial, but if your site does not work properly, you are not getting very far. Few people enjoy seeing a 404 error while browsing (and by ‘few’ I mean ‘no one’). However, there are a few creative 404 landing pages that seem nice, but they are more like standouts, not a general rule.

Broken links are the surest way to leave an abysmal first impression and discourage any further visits. However, we all know what happens to the best-laid schemes of mice and men, and it is wise to create a unique and witty message with a relevant link in case this does occur. A more personal, human touch is less easily dismissed than a cold constatation of what is likely to be perceived as incompetence.

So, please, take your time and make it really accessible for your readership by “cleaning” all the bugs and setting up everything nicely, so all the inconveniences are not going to stand before you and your readership!

Can I Find It?

Simplicity is a key to good usability. Don’t overthink and overburden the design with unneeded distracting elements. Keep the overall look as clean and functional as possible. Going against the tide is admirable but rarely efficient.

You are working within the established paradigm, so implementing familiar and intuitive elements into the page layout is a good thing. Make the user experience consistent with what people know and don’t fix what’s not broken.

A visible logo in the upper left corner and an obvious search bar in the right are a good example of this approach. Remember: you showcase the content, every aspect of your design that contradicts this philosophy is likely a liability.

You’d be surprised how this passage does not mention the word “search engine” yet. The thing is that SEO is an extremely important factor, however we are looking for the people that will not stop by and leave, but return.

Making it SEO-perfect is only part of the deal. Once found, should never be lost again. A one should always keep in mind such factors as keywords, link policy, submitting your website to the SE and original content of course.

Can I Understand It?

Mixing things up a bit should by no means be a taboo. You need to change things to remain visible; just be sure to introduce new and unique elements of your site experience gradually. Don’t dump the information about features, however useful they might be.

Guide the users instead and give them maximum control over the workflow. A steep learning curve is something you want to avoid as people usually lack resolve and desire needed to overcome the initial barrier if it looks even a little intimidating.

Also, know your audience and shape the site accordingly. The essential requirements differ based on your target demographic.

Summary

Usability is not as complex or expensive as people often make it out to be, but its importance cannot be overstated. Providing good user experience can be boiled down to ensuring accessibility, ease of navigation and clarity. If your user can afford to be lazy, you are on the right track.

As great as it sounds, the true meaning of this postulate is actually providing your users with best customer service without actual human interaction. The focal point is to make them feel at home and well-accepted.

Make it look like they are welcome there and they will come back. Like it or not, usability of your website is the reflection of yourself, so you don’t want to have that one distorted.

Do you have anything to add? Or maybe want to share your own experience of attaining usability? Sound off in the ‘Comments’ section!

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