Website usability is one of the most important elements in web design.Effort, imagination and empathy are involved in creating, customizing and maintaining a site.
Nowadays, we’re all part of a very competitive world, so we know that making a difference can keep us ahead of our competitors. And improved website usability is definitely something that can help us gain competitive advantage.
Website usability elements to be considered
There are multiple aspects related to website usability such as content usability, navigation usability, videos, loading speed, images, web forms, background colors, and even more.
Content usability means concise and easy to understand content. It means you’ll have to organize it very well by cutting out what is not necessary and leaving only the essential pieces of information. Don’t forget to use short paragraphs and bullets when it’s required. White space and headings are also important.
Navigation usability is one of the most frequent causes why visitors leave a website. Studies show that usually, visitors read website pages in an “F” shaped-pattern. Considering this aspect, all primary navigation elements, including logo, should be placed on the left side. For larger websites, inner categories or pages should appear in the left sidebar.
Videos are a great way to grab attention and engage users. Supporting content with videos emphasizes a particular point or synthesizes some aspects much easier.
Web pages loading fast is a must when discussing about website usability. If web pages load very slowly, it’s more likely that visitors will leave the website and Google will penalize its rankings, too. Google’s studies have led to the conclusion that “faster sites create happy users”. The speed of your website can be tested with tools such as Google PageSpeed, WebPage Test and Yahoo!YSlow.
Using relevant and high-quality images on your website contributes to a positive website usability. Don’t forget to choose those images that can be interesting and suitable for your target audience.
A few general recommendations related to web form usability
Web forms are one of the most important elements as they make communication possible. At the same time, they are an ideal way to gather and manage data from potential customers and business partners. The way labels are placed, how many fields are used, the way information is required are just a few details regarding web form usability.
Adding nice colors and fonts to your online forms is not enough for excellent website usability. Designing online forms to improve website usability means more than this. Web forms are an important element of a buyer’s journey as they lead to interaction and completion of goals.
So, here are a few general rules for better online form design that improve website usability.
1. How many times it happened to fill out a form and when you clicked the submit button you found out that you left something mandatory unfilled? This example should make you design a web form differently, without returning users to an altered online form.
2. Require only necessary information. There is also the possibility to make some fields optional. Useless information will only waste your users’ time and annoy them.
3. Error messages that inform submitters are also a must for an outstanding website usability. Such messages let them know what has happened and offer them potential solutions.
4. Avoid requiring information only in a specific format such as phone number fields. It would be much easier if users had the freedom to type their phone number in any format they want. Nonetheless, the best thing for you in case you need it, would be the possibility to create custom formats for the phone number field.
5. Ensure that labels are descriptive enough. This way, submitters will know what to expect and website usability will be improved. Keep all field names concise and clear to avoid misunderstandings. Additionally, mandatory fields should be clearly marked.
6. Using the right type of field for specific tasks is also recommended. As there are several options, ensure you know their advantages and disadvantages before using them.
7. Avoid too many restrictions regarding the input as it will annoy users and make them leave the web form. Online form validation should be restricted to main points.
There are many other aspects related to online form design for a better website usability. It’s important though to remember these few general rules that Gerry Gaffney and Caroline Jarrett mentioned in their book “Forms That Work: Designing Web Forms for Usability”:
Background colors, contrasts and texture should also be considered to improve website usability. All these elements are influence users’ experience and psychology. Therefore, before choosing the background color, analyze again about your target audience. For example, if you’re designing a website for babies, use light colors such as blue or pink. The same principle applies when you choose the patterns and textures.
You’ll also see that each of these points can lead to other website usability aspects. Try to create an intuitive site architecture that makes it easy for your users to find what they’re interested in.
Thus, pay attention to the way your navigation menu and content are created. As a general recommendation, website usability is improved when visitors use your site easily and smoothly. Apply the above mentioned tips and you’ll definitely notice a huge difference! If you have other suggestions related to website usability, feel free to share them with us!