How usable is your website?

3rd August 2012 in

People expect to be able to use your website in pretty much the same way as they do any other website, says Jacob Nielson (a self proclaimed guru of web usability). It’s a valid question, especially when you think about one major factor - Websites don’t come with user manuals. And why should they? We’re used to reading left to right in the western world as we point, click and move around a website like it’s second nature. So why are so many companies making it really difficult for people to use their websites?

Steve Krug highlights this very well in his book “Don’t make me think”. As he points out, we’re used to scanning websites like we scan billboards. This means we have to get core marketing messages and benefits across to our audience as quickly as we can for them to ‘turn the page’ and do what we want them to do next.[BREAK]

Another interesting viewpoint is what Krug calls the Trunk Test. People won’t use a website if they can’t answer the most basic questions like “What page am I on?”, “What are my options?”, “Where am I in the scheme of things?”.

Usability is something that both intrigues me and has been driving me crazy for years. Don’t you just love it when you add an item to a shopping cart only to be told you have to register to check out? For goodness sake! Ask for my name, my address, my payment details, but don’t ask me to register, I didn’t come to register, I came to buy so let me buy!

And it’s not just shopping carts. When you’re asked to do something you don’t find logical and you’re punished for it, or you’re asked for excessive information, it just puts you right off the experience of the brand and you’re off to a competitor website.

As web designers, we need to take the user’s point of view and not just design for design's sake. How hard are we making it to get the message across? Are we bombarding them with too much information? Have they ‘got it’ in those 3 precious seconds since they visited the home page? 

So let’s not make people think when they’re on our website. Adding to the things that make you think overloads your brain, according to Krug. It might not be much, but these things add up, so every bit of clarity that can be added can make a difference. Nobody likes feeling like they’re not sure what to do next, which ever website they’re on.

Don’t Make Me Think - A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability by Steve Krug is available on Amazon.co.uk 

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