Design for Usability

икониWe spend a lot of time talking about web site usability with our customers. But the first question we have to answer is “What is web site usability?”

So let’s figure out what it is. As a web design firm we work hard to make our sites visually pleasing but a good web site is far more than pretty. It needs to be usable. In a nutshell, that means that the web visitor needs to be able to EASILY take the next step. A good negative example is, if you are trying to capture more subscribers to your newsletter and the sign up form requires them to give their physical address, your site is not very usable. To add people to your newsletter list, the only thing required is a valid email address. A positive example would be to have a simple form asking only for their email address.

The easily part of the description is very important. I’ve been on web sites where every possible thing you can do is displayed on the front page. With dozens of choices, people likely make the choice to leave to find a site with fewer choices. A good way to remedy that is divide your choices into three groups and then give visitors three choices instead of 40. Once they’ve made that first choice you can then divide up the remaining choices under that group and have them select again or you can present all the remaining choices.

Let’s take a number example to see how people think. Can you imagine remembering dozens of 10 digit numbers? 3,032,682,245 is a long number to remember. But if I tell you it is my phone number (303) 268-2245, I suddenly only have 3 sets of numbers to remember. Fewer choices work better when remembering phone numbers and they also work better when building web sites.

So to make your web site more usable, remember these two points:

  1. Make it easy for visitors to take the next step – give them the information they need and don’t ask for information you don’t need.
  2. Give them only a few choices (2 – 5) or they will be overwhelmed and probably not make the choice you want them to.
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