World Usability Day is coming up on November 14 and I figured that would make a perfect subject for the next blog post. Now you may be wondering, what is usability exactly? According to the International Organization for Standardization, “usability…is concerned with the extent to which the users of products are able to work effectively, efficiently and with satisfaction.” (ISO 9241-11) In layman’s terms, usability is the process of creating a product so that it is easy to use and meets the expectations of the end user. In regards to web design this concerns the organization of information, the placement of features (i.e. navigation, most important information, etc.), and making the best use of color schemes, among a bevy other things. Usability is all about making sure the user has an enjoyable experience. It is one of the key ingredients for turning a first-time visitor into a returning visitor.
Up until a few years ago, user-centric design wasn’t even a blip on my radar. I designed for show with little regard to how information was organized. If the website was “pretty” it served its purpose regardless of how difficult it was to navigate. Recently, while working with a team on the forefront of usability, the concept of designing for the USER was reinforced. There were a 100+ visitors per day to this website and if they weren’t happy with website then oops there goes the organization’s grant money. So, through the use of surveys and focus groups the org’s old website has been converted to be more organized and easier to navigate with an adopted web standard guide.
Designing with the user in mind isn’t difficult but it usually requires you to look at the project from a different angle. Here are some good links on usability:
- ISO 9241-11
- A List Apart: Helping Your Visitors
- Usability and Design News: Screen Resolution, Page Layout, Hot Spots