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Web Design Companies Should Be Usability Experts. Choose Wisely.

Author : Joseph Schaefer

An unusable website is destined to be a testimonial for your competitors.

When planning, designing, and developing a website, one of the biggest factors to take into consideration is usability.

Usability refers to a smooth, valuable, working relationship between the visitor and the website. Difficulty with navigation, broken links, and unintuitive experiences all play a role in a usable website. Website usability in the eyes of the visitor is that which is simple, and delivered in a logical manner.

Consider an offline experience most of us have had in regards to usability. If you're reading this book you most likely have intimate knowledge of how to drive a car and have probably done so more times than you can count. But have you borrowed a friend's car? Turning on the wipers or turning off the stereo can suddenly become a stressful, harrowing experience.

But just like operating a motor vehicle, we've all visited websites and they (for the most part) operate with same bells and whistles, but in a foreign experience we can easily get tripped up and wind up frustrated.

This is where usability planning and implementation come into play for a website. As professional website designers and developers, we have to guide the user as much as possible without it seeming like we're coddling them in order to deliver an easy to use, intuitive experience.

Let's assume your visitors have found your website. Ask yourself:

Are they able to actively and effectively use it?

How does your logo react to a click? Does it do anything? Does it always lead back to your homepage?

Text links, is it clear that they are 'clickable'?

Is the navigation clear? Is your navigation constructed in a manner consistent with the natural flow of information for your niche?

Can people find what they want quickly, and easily without moving forward one, two or three steps only to hit the back button or worse, leave?

Does that navigation remain consistent from page to page?

Are your visitors clicking on non-interactive parts of your pages? In other words, do your design elements confuse your visitors into thinking a click may lead to a page reload, a download, further information, etc.?

If you answered 'no' to some or all of the above then you have a lot of static going on and you're frustrating your visitors. How many lost sales is that?

A website that is difficult to use is likely to drive your visitor elsewhere, and make the average of return visits extremely low.

The synergy between the web designer, developer, content strategist, and business owner is very important as they will be the web behavior experts while you are the audience, and topic expert.

Strong Usability Characteristics Include:

Intuitive navigation with an intuitive structure

A 'hot' logo; meaning, when it's clicked it reloads the homepage

Text links are obvious and make rational sense in the context of the conversation

Information is sensibly located within rational thematic placement instead of mis-categorized causing confusion

Consistency including: messaging, navigation, and topic

No orphan pages (an orphan page exists without access by consistent navigation, and contains no further navigation to the remainder of the site, other than the 'back' button)

Design elements must clearly dictate interaction, and not allow your visitors to 'shoot blanks' with their clicks

Stop giving your business to your competitors by launching a website with poor usability, and thus, a lot of static.

Author's Resource Box

Joe Schaefer is a content strategist and SEO at Overit Media, a web design company specializing in usability and usable websites.

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Tags:   web design company, web design

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Submitted : 2011-08-18    Word Count : 587    Times Viewed: 499