Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Website Usability Checklist

Search engine optimization and other online marketing techniques get targeted traffic to your website. As per research, a visitor spends an average of less than 8 seconds on the web page. So, you have just less than 8 seconds for the visitor to do what you want them to do. Or else they will go away. So, you need to also pay proper and more attention how the website is treated by different visitors and the major portion of your visitors find the website navigation easy and comfortable. They should be able to use the site easily and should understand the content.

This is a simple usability checklist for the website.

1.      Have the navigation links easily visible. Visitors should know where they are and should easily find out where they have to go next. Also, they should know what all additional pages are there apart for the page they are on.
2.      The navigation links should be consistent and at the same place on all the pages. Visitors may get annoyed of the links appear and disappear unpredictably. The best practice is to use include files for the navigation system. This will ensure the changes made to this are effected on all the pages.
3.      Use appropriate anchor text. As the anchor text is important for search engine optimization, do not stuff them with main keywords without considering to which page it will lead to after clicking. Make the anchor text more meaningful at the same time so that the visitor will know where they will be moved to on clicking. Don’t keep them guessing as to where the link is going to take them.
4.      It is a normal practice to highlight the anchor text so that it conveys the message that the visitor has to click it. Usually, the anchor text is underlined or used in a different font or bold font. It is always a best practice to use CSS to emphasize the text links.
5.      You can use JavaScript or other scripting language to create menus for the navigational links. Just take care that the visitor can easily navigate through the link structure in the menu.
6.      Home page link is a must in the list of navigation items you have. Also, the logo should always be linked to the home page.
7.      Include site search box on every page of the website. If the visitor can’t find what they need, they should be easily guided to the search box. Moreover, if you refer the search keywords, you will know what information is searched more number of times and what should be made easily available to the visitor. Thus, prominently displaying the search box will help in improving a website.
8.      Always use breadcrumbs to let the visitor know on which page he is on and how they have navigated to the page.
9.      Always have your main content and call-to-action lines on the top or above the fold. Do not expect the visitor to scroll down, read and then click.
10.  Use proper background color and font color so that it gels with your brand and branding. Moreover, the content should be easily readable by the visitors.
11.  Always use ALT and TITLE attributes to all images. Some browsers may block images so in this case the visitor can read the ALT text.
12.  Have a custom error page that will help a visitor when clicked on a broken link or type the address incorrectly. The custom error page should be in synch with the website design and structure.
13.  Have a feedback form to always dope you with you information that will help you to increase the performance of the website. Try to improve the usability depending on the feedback you receive. The users of the site can tell you exactly how they are feeling about it.

Your website is designed just not for you but, for the ones who use it – your visitors who are your customers. A site that confronts to users’ expectations, makes them more comfortable and more compelling to visit again. Good usability is always critical to website’s business.

Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, 2nd Edition

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