Try not to confuse even your most confused user!!Web Usability is an often overlooked aspect of web design. Web Usability is defined as the "quality of the users experience when viewing your site". There are 2 main qualities that make a site usable:
When you think your site is quite usable, put it to the test. Have a couple of your prospective users sit down and try to navigate through it. Watch their problem areas. Listen to their comments. Meeting their needs will make your website successful.
- Utility: Does your site have anything that people want to visit it for? What value does the site have to the user? 90% of websites rarely get hit because they have nothing the user wants. 10% of websites in the world get 90% of the traffic. For many web designers who are getting started it is hard to find a topic or use for their first efforts. Certainly that is true in this class. People in New York City or Omaha will never view the Park Center Webpage. Your audience is limited. You still can try to make your work useful to the audience that does see it. If you are doing a webpage on "theater at Park Center", try to put yourself on the users mouse. What would they like to see and know? What would bring them back again and again? Certainly, one of the first things I would do along these lines is ask the potential user. Start with the staff and students in the area you are representing. Ask them how their webpage(make it be theirs!, you are just the technician/artist) would be helpful to them. What would they like to see on it, updated at a regular interval? You may also have some ideas based on your knowledge of webpages. Ask them if your idea would be useful to them. Try to think creatively, "What can you do better on a webpage than you can do in other media?". Generally speaking, the advantages of a webpage are:1. remaining current with regular updates and 2. high quality visual medium. Use these two advantages to increase the use of your webpage.
- Efficiency: Once you have maximized the utility of your webpage, increase its efficiency to the user. How many times have you come across a website that is either too confusing to use or too slow? You click out of it. Because your user is always just a mouse click from leaving you, it is important to make your site easy for the user. There are 2 essential considerations for making your site efficient:
- Speed: How fast do the different pages load on your website? If you have a lot of large images, slow Java applets, or sluggish animations, your visitor will get impatient. You need to find a balance between making your page attractive but not overly loaded with slow objects. Try to maximize the speed of your pages. Remember that alot of people still have 28.8 kbps modems with old computers.
- Especially important is the 1st page the user comes to on your site. Make it be logical and easy to understand. Many designers use the 1st page or a portion of it to have a site map. Click back to our class homepage to see an example of a sitemap. A sitemap gives an overall view of what is on the site. Always allow your users to easily get back to the sitemap when they get confused. A second helpful tip is to keep your subpages consistent. Keep the navigation links in the same place on all subpages. Make it easy for your user to learn your site architecure quickly!
Arguably the guru of web usability and perhaps the "smartest man on the Internet" is Dr. Jakob Nielson. You can visit his website,Useit.com for more tips on making your website user friendly. I thought I would list below an interesting list of his I saw in the Seattle Weekly.
If you would like to learn even more about web usability, visit John Rhodes' WebWord.