What makes a good website? Is it the slickness of the look and feel, the features that the site offers, the interesting content or the ease of use?
The look and feel of your site maybe sensational, but what’s the point if it does not accomplish its purpose, which is to lead people to its content? The features that the site offers may be varied and interesting, but what if the user cannot get to them?
An established firm can probably afford the services of a usability consultant, but what about any of us regular people… what are the basic rules that we can follow to have a usable website?
Test, test and test some more
I remember attending this HCI conference on designing usable websites and various testing methods. Though it was all very interesting, I couldn’t help thinking, “All this seems pretty high flown, especially when some tech firms don’t even recognize the benefits of usability”. I took this up with the speaker and he said to me that the secret to a good design was to “test, test and test some more”. This, he told me, can be as simple as getting opinions from colleagues and family. I tried some of the suggestions that he gave me with quite a bit of success.
Here are some ways that you can test a design:
- Take printouts of the designs that you have created and show them to your colleagues. Ask them what they think of it.
- Make a simple clickable interface and have someone who isn’t an expert viewer (like your mom) to try and make sense of how to use it.
- Simply show it to a bunch of friends both expert and non-expert users and have them speak aloud on how they ‘feel’ about the design.
The bottom line is, usability testing is not necessarily limited to UX or UI professionals. Everyone of us can pay attention to little details and make a huge difference.