Web Usability: Organizational Benefits

The term ‘web usability’ refers to the features of a website that determine how easy it is to use.

There are five main areas of focus when determining a website’s usability:

  • The utility of the website, whether the website provides what the user wants.
  • The simplicity of the design that makes it easily understandable by the user.
  • The ease with which the user can perform the intended tasks.
  • The possible errors from the user and the effective solution.
  • The ease with which a user can come back to the website and work efficiently even after a long gap.

Why website usability is so important?

Competition among websites poses a great challenge to companies looking for innovative methods to make their websites more attractive and accessible to users. If you want your website to standout, your website must effectively meet the needs of its users. Put simply, if your site is hard to use, people with move on to another site. Users do not want to have to learn how to use your site. They visit hundreds of sites a day. Users want to quickly and easily find the information they are looking for. If you make that task difficult through poor navigation or site design, they will leave your site and likely not return.

Usability is important for all types of websites. One obvious example of this is with e-commerce websites. E-commerce websites like Amazon.com or Buy.com rely of users making purchases in order to make money. Poor website usability can have significant impact on e-commerce websites bottom lines. If a user cannot find the right product or details (price, description etc.) they are not going to purchase from that site.

Website content is another important factor in determining a site’s usability. If a site’s home page for example, does not provide the information the user is looking for, they will quickly grow tired of searching and likely continue their search elsewhere. Usability and design go hand in hand. An effective web designer should anticipate the needs of the user and provide relevant content to meet those needs.

How to improve website usability?

The easiest practical method to improve web usability is to conduct usability testing with a group of ordinary users who do not have much technical knowledge. Give them specific tasks to accomplish and watch the way they interact with your site to accomplish those tasks. The results will likely surprise you. Usability testing allows you to easily identify opportunities for improvement. A site’s web analytics should also be reviewed to identify how your site is being used.

The timing of usability testing is also important. Testing should be done as early as possible and continued throughout the development process. If you wait until after the site is designed, you may not be able to resolve any usability problems that the testing discovers.

Who can benefit from usability testing?

While large companies have been know to invest millions of dollars in usability testing, organizations of any size can benefit from testing and even do so inexpensively. While experienced usability professionals are ideal, existing staff can be trained to conduct basic website usability testing. You don’t even need a computer in some cases. All that is required is a paper prototype or wireframe to show the user.