Usability is a term used to describe how easy a website is to navigate. Visitors will usually leave a website within a few seconds if the usability is not easy for them. Below are three of the most important areas that should be considered when building a new website or evaluating an existing website to improve usability.
Readability refers to the ease that a website’s content can be read and understood by visitors. The higher a website’s readability, the faster visitors can digest the information and find what they are looking for. Website visitors do not have the patience to try to digest hard-to-read or cluttered website pages and are more likely to leave the site without skimming it for relevant words.
To improve usability, use properly structured, short paragraphs containing short sentences and words. Using bullet point lists also improves readability. Any unnecessary information should be deleted, and the main point should be made as quickly as possible.
The text content should be easy to skim since most visitors do not read pages word for word. According to a study conducted by Jakob Neilsen, a usability expert, visitors skim website text from left to right and then down the page in a F-shaped pattern. They generally skim looking for keywords related to the reason they visited the page. One way to improve usability, according to Neilsen, is to make sure the design and structure of a webpage is created with skimming in mind. Neilsen’s study indicated that this would improve usability by as much as 47%.
Pages that have readability issues will generally annoy visitors. They’re likely to leave for a site that is easier to read and understand. This will result in the loss of potential customers.
Selection and Placement of Images
Another way to improve usability is to make sure that sidebars, banners and other design elements are placed on the page in a position that will not distract visitors from the actual content. All images used on a website page should be of high quality and they should be relevant to the focus of the website. For example, images of pets would not be appropriate for a food website. Proper placement of images is also important in improving usability. If they are not placed correctly, they may distract the visitor and give them a negative impression of the website.
Visual aids such as photographs, graphs and charts that contain relevant information is appealing to visitors and will improve usability. The font color should have enough contrast so that it’s easy to differentiate the text from the background. To improve usability, meaningless images included as decorations on the website should be avoided since they can distract the visitor.
Websites that are hard to navigate will cause visitors to leave the site. To improve usability, links should be easily identifiable and call-to-action buttons, such as a shopping cart or contact, should be easily located. To improve usability, each page should maintain the same placement of navigation buttons as the home page. The navigation button names should also be the same on each page of the website. This makes the website consistent and will improve usability.
Hyperlinks that allow visitors to click on a link and be taken directly to a related page should change colors when the visitor has clicked on it. This makes it easy for the visitor to know which link they have already looked at and will improve usability.
Pages that require visitors to scroll horizontally to read the text are especially aggravating to visitors and will cause most of them to leave the website within a few seconds. Vertical scrolling should be kept to a minimum. To improve usability, each page of the website should have a simple layout that makes it easy to navigate and to make your way from one page to another. The website should also be set up to make it easy for visitors to accomplish what they visited the site for with a minimum number of clicks.