Usability is more than just a buzzword. It’s the holy grail of web designers everywhere.
And it’s not just websites. Designers of operating systems, e-commerce sites, content management systems, online training tools, business intelligence systems, and social platforms always strive to make them more useful.
Why? The most basic driver of an interface’s popularity is that people have a productive time using it.
Usability means e-commerce sites that get found and help shoppers complete the sale. It means marketing automation tools that provide useful feedback for making sales and marketing decisions. It means interactive online games with intuitive controls that are easy to figure out.
It also means online presentation hosting platforms that make content easy to publish and share.
The Basics Of Usability
There are companies and industry segments dedicated to pursuing interface efficiency as a strategy, and there is even a job title: the Usability expert.
We’ve all seen this process, when our perfectly-designed interface still managed to stymie some users. Who hasn’t felt the urge to pull their hair out when users said they couldn’t find the big green button that clearly reads “Buy Now”? Usability is more than ‘ease of use, or the size of the buttons; it also demands that everything be where people expect to find it, and the entire flow of the interface make sense. It prescribes asset load times, plain language, popups, box shapes, colors, fonts, backgrounds, shadows, and consistency.
Leading usability consultant Jakob Nielsen has defined these five Usability Goals: Any interface should be easy to learn, respond quickly, be simple to remember, allow for errors, and give the user an experience that is satisfying and pleasant. We all know of online tools that change over time, reverting us all to beginner status, or don’t give us a way out when we make a mistake.
How To Be More Useful
Taking these goals into consideration, here are basic ways you can make your web content easier to find and use, allowing your audience to be more productive:
Be Found: The first goal of anyone reaching out to an audience, whether they are potential customers or students, is to be searchable. This means using the latest web SEO tactics, and also using smart filenames and keywords that allow a user to search any kind of database to find your product, site, and relevant materials.
Be Quick: Once your products are found, users need to quickly understand how to begin using them. If it’s a training application, it should immediately clear to them how they can start learning from it. In the case of a marketing site or landing page, the call to action should be obvious, and it should also be very clear why they should follow it.
Be Dynamic: Usually, people will understand a course of action better if they see it being used, rather than reading about it. This is why videos and talking landing pages are so popular today. Whether it’s a lecture, an interview, a site tour, a demonstration, a slide presentation, or an animation, moving images help people see what you’re trying to tell them.
Be Thorough: When you give people a roadmap, you show them the entire trip from beginning to end. When you create online presentations for marketing or training, you should take your viewers on a journey that shows them every turn. This means offering materials that include additional links and articles, references, and detailed graphics. For productivity’s sake, these supplemental items should not get in the way, but be there in case the user wants to dig deeper.
Be Present: This means you are available while your user goes through the process. The prevalence of chat popups and prominent contact information on websites is testament to this. You are providing an experience, and when people have questions, you should be ready to respond quickly, whether by email, chat, social tools, or live video chat.
If you strive for usability in the online experience you provide, you accomplish several things: You make your product and materials more readily available and searchable; you help your viewers fulfill their needs more effectively, and you establish trust from your audience.
For your website, learning content, e-commerce sites and applications, it’s best to use communications tools that fulfill these basic needs.