What does usability mean? Usability is part of the overarching User Experience and is about how easy it is to do what you need to do. For a website, this is: how easy is it for your visitor to find the information they are looking for.
The degree of usability is determined by the information architecture of your website. This consists of (1) the navigation structure or menu at the top of your website, (2) the page structure, which you can set up using wireframes and (3) the search function of your website. The latter can be either a completely free or structured search function with filters and taxonomies (categories and tags in WordPress).
And that is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a lot involved in fine-tuning the usability of your website. Dazzle recently followed a training course by AGConsult on usability. We are happy to share the new insights we gained with you.
“Usability is a quality attribute that assesses how easy user interfaces are to use. The word “usability” also refers to methods for improving ease-of-use during the design process.”– Norman Nielsen Group
Why is usability so important?
It’s no secret that the usability of your website is hugely important, but why really? It is good to know that we read differently online than we do offline. People will read 25% slower on a screen than on paper. Most visitors will also read a maximum of 28% of a text online. In addition, people online tend to look at text first and only then turn their eye to images.
In addition, online reading is task-oriented. Each page must respond to a task or goal. And preferably as quickly as possible. Think about consulting opening hours or registering for a course. There is a task associated with the browsing behavior of your visitors.
If you know all this, it is only logical that you start adjusting to this specific reading pattern. And with that, the importance of usability quickly becomes clear: a user-friendly website ensures returning visitors, a higher conversion rate and trust from your visitor.
The importance of top tasks
We briefly mentioned earlier that reading on the web is task-oriented. This means that you have to put your visitor and their needs first and learn to think from your visitor’s point of view. The question ‘what is the purpose of my website’ is therefore replaced by ‘what is the purpose of my visitors‘.
To answer that question, you need to identify your visitors’ top tasks. There are several ways to do that:
- Google Analytics: find out which pages are visited the most, which pages barely get any visitors, and what people are searching for through the search function on the website.
- Short surveys: a short popup on the website where you ask people who they are and why they are browsing your website.
- Heatmaps: which parts of your page/website are viewed the most? Norman Nielsen Group research shows that people scan your page in an F-shape.
- Scroll and click maps: see how far visitors scroll on your website and which links are clicked on.
- User session recording and user testing: research how visitors interact with your website and find out what problems they encounter.
Once you’ve identified your top tasks, you can get on with the job. Less visited pages can be deleted, composed or reactivated. The fewer pages you have, the easier it is for visitors to navigate your website. And the smoother it will be for them to reach their goal. It’s also a good thing for you not to have an abundance of pages. That way, maintaining your pages is a lot more efficient and can also benefit your SEO strategy.
Usability tips en tricks
By now you understand how important it is to identify and highlight your visitors’ top tasks on your website. But what can you do to improve the usability of your website? Below we give a lot of practical tips and tricks to optimize the homepage, navigation, category and detail pages and forms of your website.
Depending on the products and/or services you offer, your homepage will be more or less important. Either way, here are some best practices for your homepage when we talk about usability:
- Depart from your visitor’s (top) tasks .
- Try to avoid videos in the header.
- A (large) banner is not always necessary, it is often not clicked on.
- Avoid sliders where each picture has a different CTA but opt for several blocks of static images. Also, don’t overdo it with the number of blocks: the more blocks, the less clicks.
- Don’t shout for attention but keep it quiet.
The navigation of your website is extremely important. The most common way to find something on a website is by browsing, and you do that by means of a good navigation and page structure. This is opposed to searching, which is actually seen more as a stopgap measure when your visitor cannot find what he came to your website for. We do make the remark here that for some people or websites (e.g. e-commerce) the search function equals the navigation and page structure.
A first important aspect is your brand’s logo. Instinctively, people look for this at the top left of your website. According to research by Norman Nielsen Group, it is up to 6x more difficult for visitors to return to the home page when a logo is centered in the middle of the page. In addition, visitors are more likely to remember your logo when it is positioned at the top left.
- Place your logo in the top left corner.
- Divide your navigation according to top tasks.
- Avoid sticky navigations as they are distracting (possibly showing them when you scroll up).
- Beware of unfolding navigations (preferably downward rather than sideways).
- For e-commerce websites, place a search bar at the top.
A category page should actually function like a salesperson in the store. And preferably a good salesperson, of course. Here are some tips on setting up your category page(s):
- Indicate points of difference between products so that people can make initial distinctions at a glance.
- Place enough results on a results page, preferably more if there are few specifications (bras versus cooktops).
- Avoid products in the spotlight (larger block) but choose a ribbon with discount or most bought.
- Help visitors by using bullet points instead of continuous text.
- Step away from the typical left-hand subnavigation.
It takes an average of 2.6 seconds for someone to (subconsciously) decide whether or not to stay on a page. Your detail pages should therefore have a clear focus. We would also like to give a few more tips about your detail pages:
- Beware of large header images; rather start your page with a title.
- The left side of your page is more important than the right side, so place CTAs on the left.
- Use bullet points rather than continuous text to get more clicks.
- Only use photos that actually contribute something to your page.
- Provide one clear CTA, in an eye-catching color, with a customer-focused caption.
In addition, people often think that long pages are not a good idea. However, this is not entirely true. Longer pages are not a problem, as long as you can make sure that your visitors scroll (enough). We give a few tips on how you can improve the scrolling behavior of your visitor:
- Start with the obvious and post the best content right at the top of the page.
- Make sure all content on the page is relevant to your visitors.
- Avoid a false bottom that breaks the scroll flow.
- Provide visual cues that make it clear that something will continue further down the page.
- Use anchor links, content tables or in-page tabs so visitors can quickly get to the right information.
Almost every website contains one or more forms. Whether it’s a simple contact form or an extensive application, there are some best practices you can apply to increase usability. Think of A/B testing different forms or making it visually clear that there are multiple steps. Also, don’t forget to include the following:
- Delete anything unnecessary so there are as few distractions as possible.
- Choose a good structure: solve your visitor’s problem first and only then start asking for personal information.
- Make sure your keyboard doesn’t overlap your fields.
- Explain why you need certain info, e.g. an email address is needed to receive the quote and proactively offer help, e.g., where can you find your state registration number.
- When an error occurs, indicate what is wrong and in which field something went wrong.
In addition, it is important to adhere to some proven conventions:
- Are you using an asterisk for required fields? Then also mention when a field is optional.
- Always place the label above your field, not in the field.
- Adjust the size of your fields to match the expected length of the answer.
Do you want to optimize the usability of your website? Dazzle helps you to create UX flows and improve the entire user experience of your visitors!