Web usability is about making your website in such a way that your site users can find what they’re looking for quickly and efficiently. A usable website can reap huge benefits on to your website and your business.
Every £1 invested in making your website easy-to-use returns £10 to £100 (source: IBM)
A usability redesign can increase the sales/conversion rate by 100% (source: Jakob Nielson)
Web developers attempting to build accessible websites often make the same mistakes time and time again. Although they’re trying their hardest sometimes their overzealousness gets in the way and actually hinders the accessibility of their websites.
The below 10 guidelines tell you what not to do, so you too don’t fall foul to these same common accessibility errors…
In professional web design circles, the usability testing session has become an essential component of any major project. Similar to focus groups in brand development and product launches, usability testing offers a rare opportunity to receive feedback from the very people the website is aimed at – before it’s too late to do anything about it.But how can you get the most from these usability testing sessions?
1. Choosing your subjects
As with any market research project, the results will only be as good as the people you test. Do not test people from your own company, or friends and family. Go to a market research firm or temp agency and ask them to source participants to a certain profile. Make sure the market research firm does not provide the name of the company or any other details that will cloud the judgement of the participants.
2. Before the usability testing
As with everything in life, first impressions are vital. Each participant must be put at ease. Remember, the usability testing session is often an extremely artificial environment and, for the most beneficial and informative results, we want them to behave as if they were using the site at home or work. Provide clear instructions on how to get to the usability testing location, and if necessary meet the participants at local stations. Do not use terms such as ?usability testing? or ?market research?, as these can confuse and put people on edge. Also, ensure that participants know how long the usability testing will take, and the type of tasks they will be expected to perform. After the initial greeting and welcoming drinks, there are always legal forms that must be signed. It is essential that these are written in plain English, and are as short as possible. The last thing any nervous usability testing subject wants is to be given a contract that looks like they’re signing their soul away. All you want is for them to be reassured that the tests are completely confidential, and for permission to use the data generated during the test as part of our results. So tell them that.
The Usability Expert Jakob Nielsen says: “On the Web, usability is a necessary condition for survival. If a web site is difficult to use, people leave. If the homepage fails to clearly state what a company offers and what users can do on the site, people leave. If users get lost on a web site, they leave. If a web site’s information is hard to read or doesn’t answer users’ key questions, they leave. Note a pattern here? There’s no such thing as a user reading a web site manual or otherwise spending much time trying to figure out an interface. There are plenty of other web sites available; leaving is the first line of defense when users encounter a difficulty.” –
There are several definitions for usability, but basically products which have the following 6 characteristics, can be considered as usable.
Quick and easy to learn
Efficient to use
Allows rapid recovery from errors
Easy to remember
Using is enjoyable
Does your product have the above characteristics?
User and Provider benefits:
Usability increases benefits for both parties: the User and the web site Provider.
Users are satisfied, instead of being frustrated when interacting over the web site.
They achieve their goals effectively and efficiently.
They cultivate confidence and trust in the product.
In other words, satisfied users, become loyal, going on using the web site, and also recommend to others.
Reduced development time and costs.
Reduced support costs.
Reduced user errors.
Reduced training time and costs.
Return on Investment.
Usability Can Save Your Company!
John S. Rhodes, Editor and Webmaster at WebWorldPro says: “Data indicate that usability offers a better return on investment than almost any other business action. When times get rough, usability shines. The benefits are huge. Usability is a weapon that can save you money, improve your competitive position, and improve customer loyalty. Now is the time to invest in the research.” –
If you’ve been developing websites on Mars for the past few years then you’ll be forgiven for not knowing about web usability. You’ll still be creating splash intro pages, having pages with massive download times and using more images than you can shake a stick at. Well, back in Earth these days have long gone and today web usability rules the web development world. For those of you who have been on Mars please read some of the things that Jakob Nielson has to say and try to catch up.
As for the rest of us Earth-based developers, well we’ve learnt a whole bunch about usability and we’re all using it as best we can in our websites. Right, guys? After all, web usability does have huge benefits.
Now that usable websites have become so commonplace, especially among the major web players, it’s time to start looking to the future. Suddenly, a usable website isn’t going to be enough to separate us from our competitors (apart from those using the developers who’ve been based on Mars). There is a solution. It’s two words long. Enter our new best friend…
What is web credibility & why is it important?
According to BJ Fogg, the world’s leading researcher on web credibility, web credibility is about making your website in such a way that it comes across as trustworthy and knowledgeable. Don’t just take my word for it – read his book if you like. This book is so good that even Jakob Nielson himself (he’s the self-appointed web usability guru for all you Mars-based developers), dedicated a whole alertbox to it.
Fogg will tell you, as can I, and numerous other organisations, that a credible website can reap huge benefits on to your website and your business. So, here’s a few statistics to prove this point:
Just 52.8% of web users believe online information to be credible (source: UCLA)
Four in five users say that being able to trust the information on a site is very important to them in deciding to visit a website (source: Princeton Survey Research Associates)
So, web credibility’s pretty important then. But how do you implement it on to your website? Fear not, all the answers lie within the realms of this article. Now, before I go further, I must stress that most of this stuff falls under the category of ‘it’s obvious once you know it’. You know, like if someone sets you a puzzle and you can’t do it but when they tell you the answer it’s really obvious. Web credibility is all common sense – you just don’t tend to think about this stuff. So without further ado, here are five guidelines for making a credible website.
1. You must prove there’s a real organisation behind your website
Anyone can put up a website promising to deliver the ‘best service at the lowest prices’. Web users must be able to believe there’s a real organisation behind your website. A few things you can do are:
Make it very easy to contact you
Link to external websites that reference your organisation
Provide staff bios
Show photos of the office, staff, products etc.
This basically says that you should have a really good contact us and about us section. Don’t bury your contact us link in some obscure place in the website or on the page. Make out like you really want your site visitors to get in contact with you. In fact, I won’t talk anymore about your contact us page because Miles Burke’s has already written an excellent article about it, The Lost Art of Conversation – Encouraging Contact Online.
As for the about us section, don’t underestimate its importance. Don’t be afraid to show who you are (stand tall and be proud!), what you stand for, what your goals are, and a bit about your history (of the organisation, not you). People will read this stuff – it certainly won’t be the first thing they’ll read on your website but it could be the last thing they read before deciding whether or not to do business with you.
Can you think of other ways you can prove your organisation’s real? Have a look at a website you visit quite often – what is it about this website that you trust?
2. Your website needs to provide ‘sensitive’ information
A website is akin to a one-way conversation between you and your site visitors where you have 100% control over the dialogue. If site users perceive you to be lacking in credibility then you’ll be unable to defend yourself. As such, you must ensure that you answer any questions your site visitors may have, for example:
What is the purpose of your organisation?
How much does your product cost?
What happens if I’m not happy with your service
What will you do with my email address once I give it to you?
There are about 35 million websites on the Internet – by 2014 there’ll be an estimated 150 million, not including personal websites. With so many people online and so many websites competing with yours, if you can’t persuade Internet users to be loyal to your website then someone else will.
3. All statements should be backed up by third-party evidence
"We helped our clients achieve an average of 70% growth last year." Really? Well prove it! Every single point you make on your website must, without fail, be backed up with hard evidence – preferably from a third-party website. How else can a reader know for sure that you’re telling the truth?
Client testimonials, for example, are great – they’re even better if the testimonial links to the client’s website. You can improve them even more if the name of the person making the testimonial is linked to their bio on their website. You could notch up even more credibility points if the testimonial itself is on the client’s website and you link to it!
If you’ve won any awards or belong to any industry bodies, then proudly display these emblems too. Even better, have them link to the external website. Better still, would be a direct link to the section of the website showing your membership details or a list of the award winners.
4. There has to be proof that the organisation is growing and has clients
An organisation that can prove it has clients and is experiencing growth instantly achieves credibility. By showing you’ve offered your services plenty of times before, and expect to do so in the future, your organisation comes across as being firmly established within your industry. You can prove this by providing:
A client list
Case studies of your work
A latest news section
A jobs page
5. Your website needs to have an air of professionalism and confidence
Your website is your organisation’s online representation – it’s essential that it matches up in quality to the rest of your marketing materials. Even if you don’t think your website’s important to the success of your organization, (potential) clients will make judgments about your organisation based on your website.
So, what is the number one most important aspect of Web credibility? The about us section? No. Quality of outbound links? No-siree. Studies have consistently proven that the most important criteria of Web credibility is… the way the website looks. That’s it.
It’s been suggested that this is due to the short amount of time we spend on websites so we tend to rely on initial judgements. Make sure that you create a great first impression by having a crisp, professional layout with sharp graphics. Other good things to do are:
Provide some free information to prove your expertise
Ensure there are no dead links
Send out an automated confirmation e-mail when someone contacts you
There are many more! Just visit any website you perceive to be professional and confident and see what they do.
This article was written by Trenton Moss. He’s crazy about web accessibility and usability – so crazy that he went and started his own web accessibility and usability consultancy, Webcredible, to help make the Internet a better place for everyone.
Accessibility is about making it as easy as possible for all members of society to fully take part in that society. It is about removing barriers. It is about inclusion and empowerment. It is about creating the sort of world that we all want to live in – a message that should resonate with us all.
Where the UK government stands
This year, the UK government gave “a clear commitment to ensuring that all government websites and online services present no barriers to use for those with disabilities” (source: Connecting the UK). It has also promised “a renewed focus on the use of e-inclusion as a route to social inclusion” (source: Office of the Deputy Prime Minister).
Where are we now?
Accessibility’s profile within the Internet industry has never been higher, which is a good thing for all those people who have benefited from the improvements that have been made to a large number of websites.
Unfortunately, most people’s understanding of accessibility relates exclusively to visually-impaired users – to the point, in fact, where these two terms are often used interchangeably.
Well, it’s time that we all realised that there are other groups of users out there who need – and deserve – support.
Where should we be?
The Code of Practice for part III of the Disability discrimination Act defines a disabled person as:
“Someone who has a physical or mental impairment which has an effect on his or her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.”
“5.22 – In many cases, a service provider will need to consider providing auxiliary aids or services to improve communication with people with learning disabilities.”
“5.28 – For example, a customer with a learning disability may be able to access a service by the provision of documents in large, clear print and plain language or by the use of colour coding and illustrations.”
Webcredible’s analysis of usability testing sessions involving participants with learning difficulties has led to our suggesting these guidelines when designing for these users:
Your website should behave as consistently as possible, and have a consistent appearance/look-and-feel (e.g. all links and buttons should look and behave in the same way)
Avoid using words in their non-literal sense (e.g. “it’s raining cats and dogs”)
Avoid using abstractions (e.g. provide a link to a telephone number rather than to ‘Contact us’ )
Provide clearly signposted, simplified summaries of pages’ content at the top of the page
Provide an audio version of a site’s content
Break information into small, simple chunks and illustrate them visually wherever possible
Always provide an obvious way for users to get back to simpler content if they find themselves on a page above their reading level
Increase the spacing between lines of text
Increase the spacing between paragraphs
Increase the distance between the text and the underline in links (you can use the CSS border-bottom property to underline links and achieve this)
Increase the target area of navigation links (again, you can do this with CSS)