Web usability is perhaps the most important factor in any web design. This is the driving factor that keeps your visitors coming back to your website. Given below are a few points that you need to consider to increase your website’s usability.
Points to consider for improving web usability
1. Give your visitor what he is looking for
A visitor means business; he is looking for information and will stay in your site only as long as he gets what he wants. So provide only relevant information on your homepage that is specific to your end users. Web logs are the best means of finding out which keyword your visitor used and for what purpose he could have visited your website.
2. Tell your visitor what your site is all about
Often websites are crammed with information in no specific order making it hard to figure out what the site is all about! Your site should give information about what it can offer a visitor on an instant basis. You can do this by providing relevant information on the homepage. You can also provide links like about us or about this website for further clarification.
3. Provide site wide links
Site wide links are very important in any website. They allow easy navigation to all pages and reduce time consumed on browsing the pages. Your user can have instant access to what he is looking for from any webpage using the site wide links. They also allow the search engine robots to cache your pages efficiently. Site wide links can be provided at the bottom of all web-pages.
4. Provide a sitemap
A sitemap is the mark of a good website. Sitemaps give the skeleton of an entire site on a single webpage with all links. As site maps are specifically meant to provide site information they can lead to efficient browsing.
5. Ensure that your website loads fast
No one likes pages that take long time to load. Your website visitor takes decisions in seconds and it won t take him long to press the back button or type another address to access other related websites. So make sure that your site loads fast.
The possible reasons for long loading times are
Use of large graphics, java applets, flash programs or ad banners
Inappropriate use of tables, like placing the entire page under a table
Placing too much information (more than 50K) on one page
Use of free or inferior hosting services resulting in slow data transfer
Use of bad or junk html codes
6. Improve site’s navigation
Site navigation is an important aspect of web usability. It is the tool that will guide your visitors to key sections of your website. Good design starts with good organization. Properly group your pages together, especially if you have a large website. Keep your navigation consistent for all pages. While it may be cool to experiment with a non-traditional navigation design, you may find visitors bouncing if your navigation design is out-of-the-ordinary and not the typically navigation bar that they are accustomed to.
7. If your site has too much content ensure readability
Poor readability can cause your users to leave. Poor readability occurs due to use of small fonts, poor color combinations, long sentences, repeating background images and improper headings.
Tips to improve readability
- Make use proper font size. Generally a font size of 10 to 12 would ensure fast reading
- Make use of proper font types and make sure to use only one font type through- out the page. Verdana or Arial fonts are best for online reading
- Avoid using long sentences. Break your long sentences into shorter and interesting ones
- Avoid making use of static and repeating background images
- Give proper headings and provide strategic links
- Keep your content free flowing and explain you point by providing proper bullets. Shorten your paragraphs in two or three
- Avoid justifying your content
8. Test your site before launching
Testing your site before loading is very important. You should pick up information like site load times, navigation, information availability, content, browser compatibility etc while testing.
- Test to see if your site loads in all browsers
- Test all links and see if they are working
- Test for site errors if any
- Test for spelling mistakes and grammatical errors
- Test the site load times
9. Check your server log data regularly
You server log data is perhaps your best information source to improve your website’s usability. You weblog can give you information like keywords used most often to reach your site, website downtimes, pages most visited, exit pages etc. By studying your weblog you can find out the pages that a particular visitor accessed and the page at which he exited. This can help you optimize popular pages and give special attention to pages that seem to have the most exists. Overall studying the server log on a daily basis is very important.
Recommended Books on How to Improve Your Website’s Usability:
- Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, 2nd Edition
- Usable Usability: Simple Steps for Making Stuff Better
- Rocket Surgery Made Easy: The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Finding and Fixing Usability Problems
- Designing Web Usability