Usability: What It Is, Why It Is Necessary, What Are the Criteria for Evaluation, and How to Improve It
Previously, web resources and online stores dictated their terms to customers, so developers didn't think much about usability. Websites had unclear navigation and were difficult to perceive. However, with the development of digital technologies and increased competition, many things have changed.
Nowadays, usability, i.e., user-friendliness, is the most important factor in creating an online resource. Visitors don't want to wait for a page to load for more than a minute or struggle with a complex interface.
What is usability?
Usability is the convenience and ease of use of a website. There are differences in usability between websites, online stores, landing pages, and subscription pages, but there are basic principles that can be adapted to the desired format.
To evaluate usability, put yourself in the user's shoes and determine how comfortable the website is to navigate and use.
Key characteristics that define website quality:
Ease of navigation: The most effective way to test usability is to show the website to new users and gather feedback. Is the design appealing? What is missing? Is it clear how to browse the catalog, place an order, find an article, etc.? Do banners, pop-up windows, or other elements distract users?
Efficiency of actions: Usability aims to enable users to navigate the website easily. Users should understand how to perform further actions.
Visitor's memory: This feature works for the future. Users will quickly remember how to navigate the website when usability aspects are well-designed.
Minimization of errors: A simple solution to enhance website quality is to eliminate sources of errors. For example, the absence of breadcrumb navigation can lead to mistakes as users cannot quickly return to the previous page.
User satisfaction: An indirect indicator that encompasses proper design, high-quality content, clear navigation, and more.
Utility: An important characteristic for all online commerce. Is the website useful to the customer? Does it provide the necessary information? User engagement, completion of goals, and other metrics are used to measure this aspect.
The importance of usability
The success of an online business depends on two elements: value and usability. Value refers to satisfying customers with the provided information, while usability focuses on the ease of navigating the website. Usability has a positive impact on conversion rates, increasing them.
What happens if an online portal is not user-friendly? In most cases, users will simply close it. You can invest in SEO or other advertising efforts, but they will be in vain if usability is not properly addressed.
Complex navigation is one of the main reasons that can harm an online business. Rarely will users be willing to navigate through a complicated website menu. The golden rule of internet commerce is simple: If a customer cannot find a product, they will not purchase it.
Principles of usability:
Structure and navigation: When a website is opened, users should immediately see its overall structure. Make it easily comprehensible. Users should also be able to navigate effortlessly and know their current location on the site, whether it's the homepage, section, subsection, or product assortment.
Search: For online stores, it is recommended to have a search bar. Typically, it is placed at the top of the site or near the menu. This feature is necessary for users to find specific products if they cannot locate them through navigation.
Simplicity: Overloaded websites are no longer desirable. Practicality and comfort are prioritized. There are various formulas to simplify a site, such as the "three-click rule." If a customer cannot find what they need within three clicks, consider restructuring the site. Another example is the inverted pyramid rule, where the most important information is presented upfront.
Design: Minimalistic design doesn't hinder users from perceiving the main benefit of interacting with the website. It also contributes to faster page loading.
Cross-device and cross-browser compatibility: To enhance engagement and conversions, make your website responsive and adaptable to different devices and browsers.
Content: Usability is directly linked to website content. Therefore, optimize your content by showcasing current news on the main page, highlighting promotions, discounts, and more.
Clear path to the desired action: The easier the path to completing target actions, the higher the conversions. Users should be able to quickly make a purchase, move items to the shopping cart, and perform other desired actions.
Criteria for evaluating website usability
Ease of use: This criterion assesses the simplicity of using the website, the convenience of the navigation menu, and the presence of distracting elements.
Efficiency: It reflects how quickly customers adapt to the website and find the information they need.
Memorability: This criterion indicates how easily users remember how to perform actions on the website after some time has passed.
Errors: The number of visitor errors and how quickly they were able to resolve them are studied.
Satisfaction: It evaluates whether customers are satisfied with the website or not.
How to improve website usability
The menu on the website should reflect categories, ideally with 3-4 levels of nesting.
For example, in horizontal navigation, when clicking on a category, the second level of nesting is displayed, and then the user makes a selection and enters the product assortment. Three actions are the most optimal. In vertical navigation, the hierarchy is reflected in a tree format.
Example of user-friendly horizontal navigation on site
The header and footer
In the header, you typically place the catalog, shopping cart, and search bar. These elements allow users to quickly navigate through the website, access their shopping cart, and search for specific products or information.
In the footer, you often include a duplicate of the menu for easy access to different sections of the website. It also contains contact information, social media icons for easy sharing and engagement, a lead form for capturing user information, and the website's address.
Including these elements in the header and footer helps users easily navigate, find information, and engage with the website, enhancing the overall usability and user experience. Sephora store’s header with general settings and quick search bar
Sephora store’s footer with extended menu, contact info and signup form
Page structure and "customer journey" Good usability implies that the customer can immediately add a product to the cart or compare it with other items. It is helpful if the entire product area is clickable. Simplify the online form by dividing it into several blocks. In the first block, ask for the name and contact information, in the second block, request the recipient's address, and in the third block, collect payment details for the product/service.
Slow loading speed has a negative impact on usability. To improve it, you need to optimize the visual content. You can check the loading speed using Google tools such as Google PageSpeed Insights, Pingdom Tools, or Gtmetrix.com.
Viewing a web page on mobile devices is different from viewing it on a computer or laptop. On a phone, there is less screen space available for comfortable browsing.
Design for usability is focused on convenience and clear structure. Only after that comes the aesthetic appeal. Make the design simple and user-friendly, and use split testing to optimize it.
Relevance is another important aspect of usability. Presenting current news in an unclear hierarchy won't improve the website. Prioritize showing content that immediately captures the user's interest.
How to test site usability
To test the usability of a website and optimize its characteristics, conduct a usability audit. This work can be done by professionals or by yourself.
Instructions for usability testing:
Gathering representatives of the target audience: The more users involved in the testing, the better. Specialists recommend selecting different individuals, not just the target audience.
Defining actions for testing: These are typical actions that users perform on the website. For example, testing an e-commerce site involves checking the customer journey and the effectiveness of the shopping cart.
Tracking user actions: Identify errors, navigation difficulties, issues with product presentation, and more.
It is worth conducting testing at any time: test a new website, benchmark against similar companies, improve a new project, etc.
Examples of sites with good usability
The Apple website is widely recognized for its exceptional usability and minimalist design approach. The header prominently displays the product categories, search functionality, and shopping cart, ensuring easy access to key features. The clickable logo allows users to quickly return to the main page. By eliminating unnecessary buttons, ads, and excessive text blocks, Apple maintains a streamlined and distraction-free browsing experience for its visitors.
Tilda Education, an educational website, follows a minimalist design style and provides a wealth of useful information. The inclusion of a search bar on the homepage enables users to easily find any topic they are looking for, enhancing the site's usability. Tilda Education excels in its clear structure, intuitive navigation, and high-quality design, ensuring a seamless user experience.
Usability is a key factor in the success of an online business. An overloaded website does not benefit customers and yields minimal results. On the other hand, good usability leads to increased sales and sets you apart from competitors.
Therefore, consider improving your website by simplifying navigation, adding relevant information, optimizing product page structures, improving loading speed, ensuring mobile device compatibility, embracing minimalist design, and focusing on up-to-date content.