Usability refers to the quality of a user's experience when interacting with products or systems, including websites, software, devices, or applications. Usability is about effectiveness, efficiency and the overall satisfaction of the user.
Usability is the quality of the user experience. User-centered design is an approach for employing usability, encouraging focus upon the user’s needs.
Usability is a combination of factors including:
Effortless understanding of the architecture and navigation elements. When page elements are not located where users expect them to be, they'll get confused.
Ease of learning
Is it easy to accomplish simple tasks? If users have to exert too much effort while navigating through your site, they'll eventually give up.
How long does it take to accomplish a task? Fewer clicks to accomplish a task make things easier on users, and improve conversion rates. For instance, shopping carts with too many steps cause users to bail out.
Can the user find your site again? Providing a great user experience helps create followers. Additionally, this is where having a great domain name really helps you out - good domains establish authority and are memorable.
How many errors do users encounter while accomplishing a task? Provide solutions to these errors so users don't have to fix errors on their own.
Subjective satisfaction, or likability
This is the level that the user likes using the system. It it feels comfortable, without creating anxiety, users will spend more time on your site.
1. Develop a Plan
4. Test & Refine
Once you have your goals established, start thinking in general terms about the layout. Building a usable site makes it easy for your visitors to navigate and perform a call to action.
The important thing is to test various layouts and navigation. Determine what converts the most users. It's different for every site - there's no magic formula. However, by employing user-centered design, you'll have a better chance of achieving success. Set up an informal usability lab and see what's working.
I was fortunate enough to attend a seminar taught by Howard Hyden of the Center for Customer Focus. Howard taught us the difference between thinking 'Inside-Out' vs. 'Outside-In'.
Inside-Out is projecting your product, idea or service onto your users, hoping they'll want it. Many products and services have failed simply because they didn't address the needs of their users. Companies that think Inside-Out fail.
Outside-In is discovering what users need beforehand, then providing it. Doing research up front helps companies provide solutions that alleviate some type of pain that consumers have. Companies that think Outside-In succeed.
Thinking Outside-In is critical when building a website. Your company, even your relationships will be more successful if you just ask, what does this person need? By providing for their needs, instead of forcing your wants upon them, they'll become loyal followers and even evangelists.
For more information about Howard Hyden, visit www.customerfocus.org
Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug
Prioritizing Web Usability by Jakob Nielsen
A Practical Guide to Usability Testing by Joseph S. Dumas
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