Join us today, November 9th, in celebrating World Usability Day along with others around the world to ensure that the services and products important to life are easier to access and simpler to use. There will be dozens of events across the globe including Triangle UXPA’s World Usability Day celebration at SAS in Cary. In case you can’t join in person, we would like to share some of the most common problems we encounter, as well as some easy ways to make your website more usable.
1. Assuming users understand how your website is supposed to work
One of the best books I read when I was starting my developer career was “The Design of Everyday Things” by Don Norman. A key takeaway from the book is that how an object looks determines how a user understands its operation. An interface design should communicate an accurate mental model for how the component is used.
2. Not testing usability
Having relatively recently returned to the web design world, I have been impressed with how much more well thought out and documented information there is around both accessibility and usability.
Some of the tools I’ve seen a lot of positive use of is card sorting, tree testing, click testing, and user feedback. Designers and developers may not have a good feel for the content of site that they are building, and the clients themselves often know too much and therefore organize the content with a significant amount of understood context. That makes it hard for site visitors to necessarily find the same content, as they may not have that same context.
We often use the suite of tools from https://www.optimalworkshop.com/ to test content flows, wireframes, information architecture, and more with groups of testers. Getting insight from the larger audience has led us to some unexpected conclusions, ultimately helping the usability of sites.
3. Not usability testing the right thing
One of the biggest usability blunders I typically come across is not taking usability into consideration. Even worse, however, is wasting time and money testing the wrong functionality and content. It doesn’t matter how easy your website is to use if it lacks content that visitors either want or need. Even worse, your subjects will do their best during testing, providing a false impression that the results will contribute to the development of a successful website.
To avoid this, we will typically conduct user surveys during discovery, so when we plan our usability testing, be it card sorting, tree testing, click testing, etc., we will be working to optimize the user experience of content people want.
4. Assuming users understand jargon
Usability is not just about UI. When thinking about what to name pages and menu items on your website, strive to be clear, descriptive, and consistent. Menu items such as ‘About’ and ‘Contact’ are commonly accepted nomenclature for websites, so they help your users know what to expect when they click on them. Also, try to avoid idiosyncratic or “insider” language. ‘Members’ is often a better choice than ‘Units’ as a user is more likely to expect a list of members rather than an organizational structure.
5. Not testing with multiple types of input
Some people use a mouse, some people use a trackpad, and many people use mobile touch devices. As an example, an on-hover state requires two clicks on a touch device. By testing multiple types of input, you can account for user input preference and prevent this class usability issue.If you haven’t already, try navigating a website without a mouse and only a keyboard. Doing so can quickly change your perspective.
6. Not everyone wants to use a mouse
Ubiquitous reliance on mouse-driven interfaces is a common source of frustrating end user experiences. Frequently, and especially for data-entry related tasks, a dedicated text interface is more performant and easier to use.
I had a chance to attend a usability workshop, where many people shared their particular take on usability with the demographic they work with. One woman shared her experience working with rural communities in North Carolina, and she shared statistics about the sizeable number of people there are who access the internet through dial-up.
In 2013, the Pew Research Center found that to be around 3% of the American population use dial-up – meaning 9.4 million Americans. And in 2015, AOL alone reported 2.1 million users. Why that matters? Dial-up with a 56k modem connection means downloading a gif can take over 4 minutes. It’s something serious to consider before designing exclusively with large images or adding auto-playing gifs or videos.
8. Assuming ideal viewing conditions
Recently, I’ve been paying attention to text color contrast, which is about making sure text is easily readable against its background color. It’s probably easy to notice contrast when designing long text, but it’s a problem that can crop up when designing other elements like buttons or secondary text.
Ensuring good contrast isn’t something you can rely on your eye for — it helps to get a computer’s help. It gives you an objective measurement and makes sure you aren’t making decisions based on perfect viewing conditions. Good color contrast will be appreciated when someone tries to use your design on a mediocre phone screen in bright sunlight :)
The tool I’ve been using is called Shade, which lets you compare any two colors on your screen and check them for compliance with WCAG 2.0 contrast guidelines.
9. Neglecting accessibility
I recently discovered a set of infographic-style posters that give a quick visual representation of dos/don’ts for designing for accessibility. Currently there are six different posters for the following: autism, deafness and hard of hearing, dyslexia, physical or motor disabilities, low vision, and screenreader users.
While everyone can make the world a more usable place, if you find yourself over your head, let us know how we can help improve your website’s user experience.