Category Archives: Website Usability

Website Design That Can Improve Its Usability

Published / by Sir Timan / Leave a Comment
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Internet users encounter a website’s usability before they even have decided to use it and more so before they make up their minds on probable purchases. A fact is, the World Wide Web is the supreme setting for empowerment, where the one who is clicking the mouse controls everything.

Search engine marketing is important as generally visitors utilize search engines in order to discover your website. However once they reach your site, they should be able to use your site with ease and understand its content.
Research shows that of 43 million internet websites, only 42 percent are found to be usable.

Evidently, a major measure of website success is its effectiveness in converting leads into buyers. However, recent studies show that 50 percent of website sales are wasted due to the fact that visitors can not locate the content that they need; this leads to reduced web productivity, increased visitor frustration, wasted visitor time as well as loss of visitor’s repeat visits then loss of website money.

Studies done by usability experts estimates that by improving your visitors’ web encounter, it increases your buyers by about 40 percent and also increases overall amount of orders by 10 percent.

A fact is, internet users do not like to wait, more so learning how to go about using a hard to navigate home page. Individuals need to easily understand how a certain website functions immediately after they have scanned the page.

Here are guidelines to improve your website’s usability:

Simple and clear web navigation design

• It must be situated in the exact same location on each page and in exact same format, so that your visitors will not get frustrated and confused if links disappear and appear unpredictably.

• Use suitable text in your links. Your visitors must know where links will take them, through reading the text provided in your link.

• Employ the use of CSS to give emphasis on text links.

• Include always text links. Keep in mind that each page must have “text links” which links to all important parts of the website.

• Include a “site logo” linking to your home page. Generally site logos are located at the topmost “left-hand” corner of the page, where most visitors have the tendency to go even before searching for the homepage link which usually is located in your navigation system.

• Place a website search box to help your visitors locate quickly the information that they need.

Have a simple, authentic and clear content.

An attractive web design no doubt attracts visitors yet good content is what keeps your visitors on your site and inspires them to visit again.

• When you write your content, while it is important to think of search engines and keywords, also think of your visitors and present the content in a manner that is easily understandable and to solve their problems.

• Create an attractive heading and each paragraph should offer appealing statements all the time.

• Create a page content that is easy to scan and emphasize your most important points with colors, bold letters or header tags.

Support your brand

A great brand strengthens your visitors’ impression or idea of your website. A site that is branded strongly imprints in your visitors mind your products each time they go “shopping”.

• Keep typefaces and colors consistent. Pick fonts and colors carefully and consistently use them throughout the website.

• Keep your page layout constant. Employ the use of a “website template” in order to carry out a consistent page structure.

• Make a helpful custom page error that can help visitors should they click on “a broken link” or enter an incorrect URL.

Provide visitor feedback

Forms are essential to your ecommerce site’s success, as without it, you can not have your shopping cart. And any site generally needs a form for visitor feedback.

• Keep them short and easily accessible, clearly noting what is required in order to submit it successfully.

• Supply your complete contact details including your fax number, business telephone number, postal address and your email address.

Test your website prior to launching

• Test to determine if your website loads successfully in all “browsers”.

• Test all your links and be sure that they are working properly.

• Look for and be sure that your website is free from errors.

• Search for grammatical errors and misspelled words and correct them if any.

• Test your website load times.

Web usability puts designing and planning primarily for your website visitors your top priority. Website that measure up to the expectations of its visitors will have comfortable visitors that will visit your site again and again and recommend it to friends.

Use Graphics Wisely to Improve Website Usability

Published / by Sir Timan / Leave a Comment
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There can be no argument about the importance of design in attracting Internet users to a particular web site. No one would bother to explore the contents of a site if it does not contain eye-catching graphics that can please the visual sense of the users. With so many kinds of web sites existing online, it is extremely challenging to attract users and keep them interested in the site.

But a web site developer does not simply apply graphics freely on a site. Graphics should be used in the correct manner, or else, users might get turned off because the graphics featured just overwhelmed or confused them.

While it is true that attractive design is important for reasons that need not be explained, the choice of design must be carefully considered against the fulfilling the needs of users. When done successfully, it could be safely said that the web site has achieved its goals.

Graphics used in the Internet is inextricably linked to multimedia. Multimedia is a combination of graphics, text, sound, and animation to express a message to users. The multimedia features that will be incorporated to a web site should be dependent on the content. In general, multimedia and graphics should serve as supports to content, and should have precise, instructional purpose.

According to research, animated images can facilitate the transfer of learning in a positive way if it is utilized to show a vital part of the concept that is being illustrated. On the other hand, animation can serve as a barrier to user recall and performance.

Here are the guidelines in incorporating graphics to web sites:

1. Justify the usage of the graphics
The most obvious problem that can be seen on web pages is the over-usage of graphics. The main downside of this is that complicated, unnecessary graphics can take a long time to download, and this, of course, will not sit well with users. The graphics to be applied should support the transfer of data and should also be in relation to the accompanying text.

2. The difference between graphics with text-redundant data and those containing information that is non-redundant is that the former facilitates and ushers in the learning process, while the latter does not either help or slow down learning.

3. Consistency should be a priority in graphic design

4. Web pages should be marked up so that text will be downloaded before the graphics. In this way, the users will know immediately if the page has the information that they are looking for, and if not, they will be able to save precious waiting time knowing that they do not need that certain page.

5. The loading of graphics should be controlled as such that loading will commence from top to bottom, and the users scrolling down the page will encounter said graphics.

6. The downloading of pages should be fast in order to save users waiting time, and in order to reduce the chances that they will get frustrated that they will abandon plans to download. Here are several ways to achieve fast download periods:

-Keep the physical size of the graphics to a minimum
-Images should be combined in order to minimize the number of server connections. Remember, the more connections that exists, the slower the download time will be
-Decrease image resolution
-Limit the colors that will be used for the images
-Limit the use of animation

Animation is very much a part of web graphic design. The primary difference between web text and graphics and contents that are print-based is the dynamics. Moving displays attract the attention of users as long as the frequency of the display is regulated. Too much animation display can irritate and distract users. An animation that is perpetually moving can destroy the readable quality of the web page.

The usage of blinking texts should be avoided. It has long been regarded as an overused feature and the latest browsers no longer support it.

In designing a web site, there always exists a conflict between the desire to have total control over the appearance of a page and the need to permit users to establish their own preferences. The general appearance of the page should be made by the designer, but there are certain elements that users should have control over, such as color and text background, and the option whether to display graphics or not.

It takes a considerable amount of effort to establish and maintain the attractiveness and efficiency of a web site. If the guidelines above will be followed, all the efforts of web designers will bear desirable results. They only have to remember that the benefit of the users will always be the basis for everything.

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A Fitness Plan for a Lean & Mean Website

Published / by Sir Timan / Leave a Comment
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In this age of instant everything, hardly anyone wants to wait. That is probably the main reasons why drive-thrus, instant messaging, one-touch photo printing and all sorts of “now” technology and products were invented and are profitable today.

The same can be said when surfing the Internet. Recent studies conducted on Internet habits show that users get irritated when a web page takes more than 10 seconds to completely download; beyond 15 seconds, more than half leave the site entirely. That is how demanding the average Internet user is.

Some web designers and developers would probably argue that with broadband access, download time should no longer be an issue. However, what these people fail to mention is that only 3 in 10 users in America have hi-speed access. A great majority of Internet users still surf the Internet via dial-up modems. At speed of about or below 50 kbps, web pages heavy with unnecessary baggage easily lose the race for the user’s precious attention.

So how do you keep your website lean, mean and quick? Here are some tips:

1. Use lean graphics.
Graphics, even in .jpeg or .gif form will still take a while to load. But since images do enhance a website’s appearance, it is very likely you will find these necessary. However, keep the loading time for the images down by specifying the height and width attributes of your images. That way, the user’s browser will be able to map the page’s layout while the images are being loaded.

If large images are necessary for your content, use a thumbnail a link to the bigger version of the picture. This allows the user choose what images he will wait for to load and saves him from needing to wait for those pictures he’s not interested in.
Another nifty trick for quick-loading images is to use software that cuts up large graphic files into smaller pieces that can be put back together using a table. Software like PictureDicer (by ShoeString) or Online Image Splitter does exactly that and generates HTML code for a table tag. However, be sure to reduce 256-color images to 8-bit colors before processing the picture.
2. Cut down on the flash intros.
They may look nice, but they take forever to load. And if these animated presentations are at the front door of your website, you stand to lose a lot of visitors (practically half) even before they saw your actual site.

If you simply have to have a flash introduction, please do not forget to include a “skip” button prominently displayed on the page as an option for those who don’t want to wait to load the intro.

Another caveat that comes with flash intros is that (as of now) search engines are unable to index content on flash format. So if you intend to present most of your important information via flash presentation, you stand to lose a lot when it comes to hits from search engines.

3. Maintain an ideal page size.
Experts vary in opinion on what is the optimum file size for a web page. As a middle figure, somewhere between 30 to 50 KB file size (including fonts, graphics, html and JavaScript and so on) should do fine and load pretty quickly.

4. Keep the pages as shallow as possible.
No one wants to go through so several clicks and links before accessing the page they intend to reach. When creating your site’s over-all organization, make sure that every page can be accessed from any point within 2 clicks. (3 are ok, but it’s pushing it.)

That said; try to keep all your pages no further down than 2 levels deep from the home page. If the site grows to have so many pages that making deeper levels is inevitable, consider creating an archive page where outdated pages may be kept for reference without causing delay to the more current content.

Having a quick-loading page show that you value your visitors’ time. They will show their appreciation by staying longer to know what you have to say. It also enhances your company’s brand, showing that you can be efficient, but substantial.

Paying attention to what is important and useful rather than what looks good but offers little in content will result in a website that is not only quick and lean, but usable as well. And for your target audience, that is the main and most important key.

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Making Useful Websites: Getting First-time Visitors to Come Back

Published / by Sir Timan / Leave a Comment
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Whether it is to shop online, to book a plane ticket, to check movie schedules, or to pinpoint your current location via GPS, the Internet has become a one-stop shop for almost all the needs for daily activities – and then some.

And yet, despite all functionality many websites offer, there are still a huge number of websites that simply do nothing but take up space, particularly on a SERP or search engine results page. What happens is that even with the most stringent of filters employed by powerful search engines, Internet users still need to wade through websites that are practically dead – dead because they offer no real information and are therefore useless.

But should it necessarily be that way? Do functional and effective websites come into being by simply throwing money at it? Does it mean that small companies cannot produce useful and practical websites? The answer to all three questions is a resounding NO.

With just a little bit more effort, small websites can offer just as much information, if not more, than the high profile websites maintained by media giants and conglomerates. And it doesn’t necessarily entail needing to break the bank.

There is a fundamental rule in designing websites and that is Content is the number 1 consideration.

You could spend a fortune on producing glitzy and flashy animation and special effects, but if your target user is not getting anything useful from the site, then all the bells and whistle will be for nothing. Remember that the Internet paved the way for the Information Highway and as such, content – useful content – is the heart of this medium.

Just what constitutes useful content?

When you first set out to create your website, you had to think about your target user. These vary with the kind of audience you wish to reach. Some target young people, others go for the yuppies, still there are others who wish to cater to household moms and dads. There is practically a market for everything. It’s simply a matter of identifying what to present to whom.

Focus on Your Target Audience
And this is where you need to do your homework: You need to focus on your target audience and determine what kind of information and content material will capture and sustain their interest.

For example, if your target audience is women in their early retirement years, then you should probably be creating and posting content that has to do with hobbies taken up by your target market, which could be garden, golf, or maybe even both. The same applies to young teenagers if that is your target. You will most likely need to gather content about teenaged stars, fashion tips, sports news and / or the like.

Identify Your Website’s Goals
What should your target audience get out of visiting your website? This is the core question you need to ask to determine a website’s usability. Will it be able to answer or given solutions to problems commonly faced by your audience? The answer you should strive for that question is a big YES.

Sourcing Your Materials
Now that you have an idea what you want to give your website’s target audience, you need to find legitimate and reliable sources of the content you wish to present.

Of course nothing beats writing and producing the material yourself, or hiring someone to do it, because you can claim the material is uniquely yours and you do not need to worry about copyright issues. However, should you be unable to spare the resources of producing your own website content, there are still solutions around that.

The Internet is full of articles written by people of varied expertise, which very likely include your website’s line of interest. And the best part of it is that, very often, these articles can be published on other websites (including yours!) for free. The small trade-off is simply including the writer’s name and credentials before or after the article.

Nifty Knick-knacks
In addition to informative (and free) articles, there are all sorts of mini-programs (usually Java-based) that come in the form of games, quotation estimators, body fat counters, weather report update, etc.

The idea is to give your target user more tools to use that will help them with what they need to accomplish on and with your website. Once again, you have the option of programming these yourself and making it available on your website, or you can copy a code from a third-party programmer and integrate it with your own website’s code. Very often the only trade off again is reference to the creator – which is only just right. Other more interactive elements such as surveys, quizzes and the like may be enjoyed and appreciated by your audience (especially if prizes are available afterwards).

In providing useful content for your website’s target audience, you may not have to look very far or to pay prohibitive professional fees. All it takes is an attentive mind to what your audience wants and needs and the patience and resourcefulness of looking around and assessing what options are out there. Once you’ve got those down pat, it simply a matter of time when visitors will come by regularly and repeatedly because your site offers current and useful information.

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Locating Links: Enhancing Website Usability

Published / by Sir Timan / Leave a Comment
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The Internet is what it is because of connections, bridging one computer to a host of others. Because of this we are able to access information at a click of a button.

The things we click are called links, and they can be likened to the synapses of a brain – connecting the user from one document to another.

One of the main tenets of website design is that a page must be able to link to another page. Failure to do so renders the page dead – and is a lot like crashing into a brick wall as you speed down the information highway.

That said, website designers, both pro and amateur, make it a point to include links into every single page they design. But it is simply more than just slapping on links anywhere. Links are as vital to a web page as the content on it for without it, a visitor will be hard pressed to connect to other documents on the Internet.

In any website, there are different kinds of links. There is no hard and fast rule when it comes to laying out links on a web page. But over time, certain conventions have emerged that seem to have become an unspoken standard in design. Deviations certainly will not depreciate a website’s over-all impact, but it may require some amount of time for the visitor to get oriented.

Whether you tend to follow conventions or not, it is best to be acquainted first with the rules, so that you will know what to break and how to break them.

But first of all, for the sake of clarification, imagine a website to be like a book. Of course, you know that a book holds several pages. In the case of a website, the pages are called web pages.

A web page basically has two kinds of links: Internal and External.

Internal links are what connect pages of the same website to each other. Going back to our book analogy, an internal link connects a page to another from the same book. So a visitor can access the contact page of a website from the home (or index) page via an internal link.

An external link, on the other hand, connects a web page to another web page from a different website. So an external link is something like a connection between two pages from two separate books.

Layout Conventions
Over the years, as more and more users and websites are added to the Internet, certain conventions or assumptions about the location of links have been formed.

The most common of which are the internal links on either the top or left margin of a page. Seeing that these two areas are the ones first noticed by a user, designers felt it was natural to place internal links that would connect the pages of the same website together. Because of the nature of its location, links on these sides of the page are prominent and graphic designs on them.

Another area where internal links are located is at the bottom of the page, usually where the copyright information is placed. However, unlike the top and left margin areas, the links at the bottom are discreet and usually rendered in small fonts (like the copyright info). This is done primarily to avoid redundancies in design, while still providing alternate sources of links should the others fail.

External links are usually found in the body of the text or in the right hand margins of the page. No specific rule exists for this, and the conventions arise merely out of common usage.

However, some designers have surmised that the tendency to place external links within the body of the text is done because references to information outside the website should be described or explained, whereas internal links need little to no explanation at all.

Another theory is that the right side feels like the outer part of page. This assumption is built on the observation that reading is done from the left to the right. So the right part of the page indicates the end of a page, thus references outside the website find themselves allocated to this area.

For some reason as more and more text advertisements (such as Google AdSense) proliferate, the location for such external links are designated at the center or the right side of a web page.

And yet, as mentioned before, these are merely conventions and NOT rules set in stone. Designers have all the freedom to layout information and links however they want. Deviations from such standard practices simply make the surfing experience for these websites slightly more interesting than the rest. The important thing is that connections are made and everyone can continue to cruise and surf the Web one link to one page at a time.