Web usability: How user-friendly is your site?

Web usability is a term used to describe the user-friendliness of a website. It’s an important quality that indicates how easy a program or a website is to use. This means that having a good design and appearance for your website is equally relevant to a decent technical implementation and ease of use. Optimising a website’s usability is a main discipline in online marketing, not least because usability is an important search engine ranking factor. Since satisfied users are more likely to become paying customers, reacting to trends and current developments in the online sphere is an important step to running a successful website.

The first check: Usability test

Usability tests show how users move around on the site, where they encounter problems, where they take detours, and even where they bail – this information is important to determine the degree of usability. You can find this out using the System Usability Scale. Users receive a survey with ten questions, to be answered on a scale of 1 to 5. The advantage of this quantitative analysis method is that it is a quick and easy solution compared to other usability tests. At the same time, the downside of this method is that it gives information on overall satisfaction, not how to combat any weaknesses or optimise your site.

Fact

The System Usability Scale (SUS) is a usability rating system (including off-site) developed by  John Brooke back in 1986.

To obtain truly meaningful results for a website, more extensive testing is required. There are many different methods: observing users, live testing, eye tracking, heuristic evaluation, as well as various others. These tests provide valuable and significant results for user behaviour, while simultaneously giving insight on how to improve a website’s ease of use.

Website usability: the main factors

The constituents of good web usability tend to be the same for every user, regardless of their tastes or individual preferences. Whether you’re running a simple business website or an online shop, you should keep in mind that your competition is just one click away. If a user doesn’t have a good experience on your site, they will click off it and go elsewhere within seconds.

As a result, every website owner needs to make their project as attractive as possible for their intended target group. This involves providing the user with their desired information as quickly and conveniently as possible. Web accessibility is just as important as a technically flawless presentation, no matter how the site is used. Engineering, appearance, and navigation go hand in hand. Here are the central points of website usability at a glance:

Uniqueness

To begin with, the first step toward good web usability is that a site’s contents, themes, and offers should be unique and organised. When a user visits your site, it should become clear to them in the first few seconds what the site is about.

Even with complex websites, it’s your responsibility as the operator to give the user an idea of what they should expect. This is especially important to include in the homepage, as it serves as a reference point for most users. For example, the purpose and message of a website can easily be conveyed through a short and concise tagline (short slogan beneath the logo/company name) or by prominently displaying the USP (Unique Selling Point).

Orientation and structure

Equally important to a website’s unique identity is creating an easy navigation and orientation for the user. First of all, a clearly structured site will need to have a useful navigational system. Ask yourself whether all buttons, icons, and navigational elements are easy to understand and don’t need further explanation. It should be clear to the user what to expect when they click on any links or navigational icons. Have a sensible amount of menu icons and a clear main navigation bar. All menu icons should be short and concise.

It’s worthwhile to utilise classic navigational symbols as they are easy for users to understand. Examples include a shopping cart for checkout, or a magnifying glass for the search function. The main orientation elements to be included are a logo with a link to the homepage, a search box, and a menu bar. The logo is particularly important here, as it should showcase strong brand recognition.

Consistency

Consistency is an important factor for a website’s usability - this refers to the presentation of the site as well as the content. For the site appearance, you should make sure that the formatting of logos, buttons, and other graphic page elements are consistent. You can achieve this by always choosing the same size, colour scheme, and lettering. The same goes for the wording; make sure it’s the same throughout the website. Many companies use their own content style guide to keep their writing style and phrasing consistent. If you use the phrase 'book now' on the homepage and then 'order now' on one of the subpages, it could prove confusing for the user.

Appeal

Even though a website’s appearance might not be the first thing you think of with regard to website usability, a website’s design does factor into its overall appeal. This means that operators should keep certain ground rules in mind when designing their website. It helps to create a clear, visual hierarchy, whether it is images, graphics, or subheadings. Ultimately, everything should be designed so that the meaning and context are clear to the user. An example of this would be ensuring that important information is written in a larger font.

Clickable links should be obvious to the user: this can generally be achieved by underlining words in a text. In addition, the following applies for the site’s colour scheme, images, and graphics: peace and order always trumps gimmicks and animations. A harmonious and pleasant colour scheme is more likely to keep visitors on the site, as bright colours, flashing icons, and any other excessive effects will make them want to leave as soon as possible.

Web usability: More criteria for good usability

In addition to these important factors, there is also some criteria that is of a technical nature and should definitely be taken into account. First and foremost, users should be able to use your website as you intended them to. This means that any texts have to be legible. Therefore, make sure to have the correct contrast between text and background. If you’re using dynamic images behind the text, you should make sure that the colour you select for the text means it can still be read despite the moving images.

The font size is also important. Keep in mind that visitors are in various situations and use different devices: Some sit at a desk with a large monitor in front of them, others lie on the sofa with a tablet. Also, make sure that users can really see the content. Too many effects cause unwanted distractions and often lead to display errors and longer loading times.

Speed is also an important aspect of website usability. Users who don’t get access to the desired content quickly enough will avoid the website in the future or at least not leave with the best impression of the site. But that’s exactly what web usability is all about: a satisfying experience on the website.

Usability: Your website checklist

Many factors are important when creating a website. You put a lot of effort into choosing the right design and assembling the content. The question of good website usability can quickly fall by the wayside. We have compiled a checklist with the ten most important points for you so that you can keep an overview:

  • Do users quickly understand what is it to be expected on your website?
  • Is the navigation understandable for inexperienced users?
  • Are all elements consistent?
  • Are all texts legible?
  • Does your website work on different devices?
  • Are users unnecessarily distracted by effects?
  • Is the most important information easy to see at a glance?
  • Is the loading time acceptable?
  • Is your website easily accessible?
  • Is the content clearly structured?
Conclusion: Web usability for more sales

Many companies are often negligent when it comes to website usability. Asking yourself the question “how user-friendly is your company’s website?” is hard to answer. Yet it is clear that users will quickly notice when a website lacks usability. This leads to short retention times, high bounce rates, and a poor conversion rate. All these key performance indicators tend to suggest that a site needs optimising. With the usability tests mentioned above, it’s possible to find out exactly where problems lie and why users are dissatisfied. If you keep the above factors in mind, you can optimise your site and expect satisfied customers.

Good web usability should:

  • Facilitate the user’s visit, or make using a service easier for them
  • Increase a site’s success
  • Generate more conversions for the company

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