Usability is the art and science of making things easier to use. The first law of usability is “Don’t make me think.” Keep these things in mind when developing pages:
- Try to make pages self-evident; if that’s not possible then make them self-explanatory
- People don’t read pages, they scan them
- Site visitors typically don’t make optimal decisions, they choose the first reasonable option
- Usually site visitors don’t figure out how things work, they muddle through (if they find something that works, they stick to it)
Designing Pages for Scanning
Since site visitors scan information, make it easier on them:
- Develop a clear visual hierarchy
- Make more important things more prominent
- Things that are related logically should be related visually
- Follow heading conventions
- Make it obvious what’s clickable
- Don’t allow visual ‘noise’, or distractions
- Create mindless choices
- Omit unnecessary words
- Remove intro text or instructions, unless it’s short, scan-able or useful to the site visitor
Navigation provides a site visitor a path around the site. Some site visitors are search-first, some are browse-first. Ways to ensure easy-to-follow navigation:
- Follow navigation conventions by keeping system names short
- Make sure global navigation appears on every page
- Global navigation should have site ID, a way home, way to search, utilities and sections (homepage can be an exception)
- Page names need to be prominent and match what site visitor clicked
- Make ‘you are here’ indicators stand out
- Breadcrumbs are a good supplement to good navigation but not a replacement
Test for good navigation; answer these questions by glancing at a page:
- What site is this?
- What page am I on?
- What are the major sections?
- What are my options at this level?
- Where am I on the site?
- How can I search?
Now, print out a page on the site, hold at arm’s length, squint, and answer above questions.