7 Principles of Great Web Usability

Just because you have a website up and running, doesn't mean that anyone is going to stay and use it.

You have to understand the basic principles of web usability if you want your visitors to enjoy their experience. Don't let rookie mistakes take you out of the game before you even start!

Keep reading for your guide to the seven basic rules of web usability!

1. Two Second Rule of Web Usability

Web standards and technologies evolve over time. Can you believe, that internet users in the 1980s would wait HOURS for one single image to download? Modern web browser users would never wait that long for anything.

The standard rule is the "two-second rule". Don't make the user wait longer than about two seconds for anything to load. They will think something is wrong with their internet, or the page is somehow damaged.

You can use responsive technologies to determine what resources to load. For instance, you might consider not autostarting a video. Load an image that will launch the video and place that as an anchor link, instead of simply autoloading the video player.

2. Availability

Nothing on the internet is perfect. Your website cannot be available 100% of the time. There are processes that have to take place [lie system updates] that will take your site down, even if only for a few seconds.

While perfection can't be attained, 99.9% uptime is a pretty reasonable baseline for what you can achieve. If your site keeps going down for repairs, it won't matter how good your content is or how attractive your landing pages are.

You should use a reputable web hosting company. Consider managed hosting if you don't know what you're doing. A managed host will take care of all the technical details, like setting up the DNS and mail servers.

Once your site begins to scale, you can increase availability by deploying a Content Delivery Network [CDN]. A CDN intelligently re-directs traffic to satellite servers that serve content from locations near the user.

3. K.I.S.S.

Keep it simple, stupid! It's one of the most popular maxims in design and engineering. KISS is a popular acronym that reminds us of one of the Golden Rules of usability.

You don't want to think of KISS as some kind of absolute rule. There are times when complexity is the type of usability in web design you want. Sometimes having lots of options on the screen shows that you have a lot of resources available to your users.

But the KISS rules works, in general. If you don't know what to do to make a page better, consider reduces what you see. Split a complex page into two pages with half the complexity each.

4. Credibility

The internet is a pretty scary place. It's hard to know who to trust when you're out there browsing. Credibility is a super important part of web usability.

You should have some of the standard features that websites use to improve credibility. An "About Us" page is usually used to explain who the human beings are that run a website or business. Digital references and an FAQ are also standard ways to improve your credibility.

The definition of credibility differs depending on the industry and business model. A fan site will have different credibility issues than a bank. The principal of "being credible" to your target market cuts through all industries and positions.

5. Testing

Testing is one of the often overlooked usability principles, especially in small companies or design firms. But sometimes, even as professional marketers, we don't see the forest for the trees. It's important to get a neutral perspective of a completely interested party.

Testing can be as simple or as complex as your workflow can accommodate. One designer might ask his girlfriend to play around on his site. Another might have teams of manual testers doing strict A / B testing.

Consider using Test Driven Development to get the site that you want. In TDD, automated tests are created FIRST, before the site is designed. The processes that the business people want to happen are fed into an automation framework like Selenium.

By making failing tests first, TDD enables the developers to know "the definition of done". Done is when the test passes! TDD creates a "single source of truth" for all the team members to work off of.

6. Responsive

Responsiveness in web design means that the site adjusts its appearance to best suit the device and orientation that the user is using. At a minimum, responsiveness means that the browser can detect "portrait" mode versus "canvas" mode.

There are many other aspects of responsive design. Depending on what your site is and does, you may not need to highlight certain resources under certain conditions. A typical example is that many sites don't display promotional videos on "mobile" versions of their sites, but display them on the main site.

Another typical example of responsiveness is to host different versions of the same image and display the one that is appropriate to the browser. There is no sense downloading an image with 2000 pixels for a screen that's only 480 pixels wide! What is website usability if it's not considering the device the user is viewing the site on?

7. Validation

Web validation is an important part of website usability. Validation means that the page conforms to web standards and is compatible in the various browsers. You can use strict validators like the one from WC3, or you can validate your site by just using many browsers and viewing it.

There are online tools that will test your site with all the various browsers, and give you a report about it. It isn't necessary to strictly validate a website, but getting close will help.

Make Your Site Stand Out

Your website is the first place people look to find out information about you. It's your chance to make a good impression, and you only get to make the first one once. keep the principals of web usability in mind and you'll always come out a winner.

Check out our blog for more hot tips for marketers and web professionals!

Contact a fantastic web designer right now!

SOMD Connect & Associates

Hollywood, MD


(240) 466-2596


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