Neal Chester

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What is Usability?

It’s im­port­ant that your web­site be simple and easy to use, if not, your vis­it­ors will be­come frus­trated and soon leave. Here are a few guidelines that we fol­low based on our re­search and ex­per­i­ence:

The User Ex­per­i­ence:

  • Avoid us­ing pop-ups.
    Users hate an­noy­ing pop-ups win­dows, so we avoid them; but as al­ways, there are ex­cep­tions.
  • Ex­clude Flash in­tro­duc­tions.
    Users need to get dir­ectly to your con­tent. Flash an­im­a­tions are ex­pec­ted for en­ter­tain­ment sites, but for busi­ness, ser­vice re­lated and in­form­a­tion-driv­en web­sites, people won’t wait, they want to get to the valu­able in­form­a­tion wait­ing just be­hind the flash.
  • Present cred­ible in­form­a­tion.
    Con­tact de­tails (phone, loc­a­tion, and val­id email ad­dress), art­icle cita­tions and links to cred­ible sources should be eas­ily found on the web­site; the lack of these does not add to your site’s cred­ib­il­ity.
  • Pages should load as fast as pos­sible.
    Self ex­plan­at­ory.
  • Vis­ited links should be colored as such.
    Have you ever clicked on a link only to vis­it the same page you just read? Vis­ited links with­in con­tent should change col­or or show some in­dic­a­tion to the user that the page was pre­vi­ously vis­ited.
  • Read­able sized fonts.
    De­pend­ing on a user’s screen res­ol­u­tion and mon­it­or size, users shouldn’t have to res­ize the screen’s text to read your con­tent. The font should be at a read­able size in the first place.
  • Web­sites that print well.
    Web­sites are doc­u­ments for screen use, but users will oc­ca­sion­ally need to print your con­tent; it should be print­able, ex­clud­ing all the un­ne­ces­sary stuff like: side­bar ad­vert­ise­ments, menus and up­per nav­ig­a­tion. This is eas­ily done with a CSS print style sheet.
  • In­ter­act­ive user feed­back.
    Users should get a Thank-you page when they sub­mit a form; this will let them know the form was suc­cess­fully re­ceived. There should be a mes­sage or graph­ic in­dic­at­ing how long a video will take to load and play.

Nav­ig­a­tion:

  • Link should use com­mon names.
    The main nav­ig­a­tion should be un­der­stand­able; we try to avoid phrases, un­known ab­bre­vi­ations or words that aren’t com­mon. When the user clicks they should find what they ex­pec­ted.
  • Con­sist­ency.
    The main nav­ig­a­tion should be con­sist­ent and present on all pages and should not change. Menus are dif­fer­ent from the nav­ig­a­tion be­cause they change de­pend­ing on which sec­tion a vis­it­or is loc­ated. Menus are sec­ond­ary to nav­ig­a­tion.
  • Con­tent links should be de­script­ive.
    Links with­in con­tent should be de­script­ive rather than us­ing the words “click here”. The HTML title=””at­trib­ute should be used to de­scribe the des­tin­a­tion of the link if ne­ces­sary.
  • In­line links.
    Long pages should of­fer in­line links to sec­tions with­in the page, fol­lowed by an­oth­er in­line link to jump the user back to the page’s Table of Con­tents; this min­im­izes the scrolling the user would have to do without them – this is of­ten seen on FAQs pages.
  • Cur­rent page high­light­ing.
    Vis­it­ors should know what page they are on by the mark of a high­lighted
    menu or nav­ig­a­tion link.
  • Con­tent links should have un­der­lines.
    Links with­in para­graphs should use un­der­lines to dif­fer­en­ti­ate from nor­mal con­tent.

Con­tent Struc­ture:

  • Scan-able Con­tent
    Con­tent should be laid out for scan-abil­ity, us­ing head­ings, bold-text and bul­let points. The length of text on each line shouldn’t be too long or too short – some say: just around 55 char­ac­ters.

Homepage:

  • Have a Homepage.
    All ma­jor ser­vices, links, news or any­thing of im­port­ance should be placed here. People need this page as a start­ing point and an in­tro­duc­tion to your web­site.
  • About the site.
    Users should have a clear un­der­stand­ing of what your web­site is all about; short para­graphs and taglines are very use­ful on the homepage.

Design:

  • De-clut­ter with white space.
    We use “white space”, so page ele­ments like para­graphs, lists, nav­ig­a­tion ele­ments do not look cluttered.
  • Con­sist­ent align­ment.
    Ele­ments should be aligned con­sist­ently throughout the web­site.

Graph­ics / Style / Col­ors:

  • Back­ground and Text.
    The site should have a read­able con­trast between the back­ground col­or and the text col­or.
  • Im­ages.
    Im­ages should be sharp and not be pixelated; de­sign­ers should not use HTML to fit large im­ages in­to a webpage. The im­age should be op­tim­ized, cropped and res­ized, be­fore­hand, to fit the webpage. Large HTML-res­ized im­ages slow down load time.