15 Helpful Website Usability Facts & Guidelines

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Web site usability is the quality of a user’s interaction with a web site or, in other words, how usable a web site is to the user. Ultimately, users want to be able to easily access a web site and determine how to use it within seconds. Usability influences whether many users will return to a web site, how often they will use the web site, and how happy they are with their overall experience at the web site. There are millions of sites on the Internet and they are all in competition for users’ time and attention. Users get their expectations for usability from the best of all of these other sites.

This article explores ways to make web sites more usable for users. It examines the meaning and importance of web site usability and how usability can be considered when designing a website:

  1. Design is a key determinant to building online trust with consumers. For motivated users of an information site, bad design (busy layout, small print, too much text) hurts more than good design helps. – Sillence, Briggs, Fishwick, and Harris, 2004.
  2. Layout on a web page (whitespace and advanced layout of headers, indentation, and figures) may not measurably influence performance, but it does influence satisfaction. – Chaperro, Shaikh, and Baker, 2005.
  3. Experience matters: Blue links are easier to click than black ones, even though black ones have higher visual contrast and are easier to see. – Van Schaik and Ling, 2003.
  4. It’s important to consider the users when you have a choice of icons, links, or both. Initial performance is best with the link alone. Frequent users can use either equally effectively. Icons are not faster, relative to text links alone. – Wiedenbeck, 1999.
  5. Rules of thumb for icons: Make them as large as feasible, place frequently used icons in a persistent task bar, and arrange them either in a square (first choice) or in a horizontal layout. – Grobelny, Karwowski, and Drury, 2005.
  6. The acceptance and impact of animation is enhanced when users are warned to expect it and allowed to start it when they want. – Weiss, Knowlton, and Morrison, 2002.
  7. Use of whitespace between paragraphs and in the left and right margins increases comprehension by almost 20 %. – Lin, 2004.
  8. A format of 95 characters per line is read significantly faster than shorter line lengths; however, there are no significant differences in comprehension, preference, or overall satisfaction, regardless of line length. – Shaikh, 2005.
  9. Applications vs. websites: In general, visual layout guidelines for GUIs also apply to the web, but there are differences to be aware of. For example, dense pages with lots of links take longer to scan for both GUI and web; however, alignment may not be as critical for web pages as previously thought. – Parush, Shwarts, Shtub, and Chandra, 2005.
  10. Narrative presentation enhances comprehension and memory. Narrative advertisements produce more positive attitude about the brand and a higher incidence of intent to purchase.– Escalas, 2004.
  11. On sites with clear labels and prominent navigation options, users tend to browse rather than search.Searching is no faster than browsing in this context. – Katz and Byrne, 2003.
  12. Users will wait longer for better content. Users will wait between 8-10 seconds for information on the web, depending on the quality of the information. – Ryan and Valverde, 2003.
  13. Consumer purchase behavior is driven by perceived security, privacy, quality of content and design, in that order. – Ranganathan and Ganapathy, 2002.
  14. In 2001, Bernard found that prior user experience with websites dictated where they expected common web page elements to appear on a page. The same still holds true today: Users have clear expectations about where to find the things they want (search and back-to-home links) as well as the things they want to avoid (advertising). – Shaihk and Lenz, 2006.
  15. When assessing web accessibility under four conditions (expert review, screenreader using JAWS, automated testing via “Bobby”, and remote testing by blind users) those using screenreaders find the most issues, while automated testing finds the least number of accessibility issues. – Mankoff, Fait, and Tran, 2005.
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