Web Usability

What is Web Usability?

  • Designing Web sites so users can perform “…tasks with a minimum of stress and a maximum of efficiency.” (Woodson, 1981)
  • Designing Web sites so users are able to "...find what they need, understand what they find and act appropriately... within the time and effort they think their task is worth."  (Redish, 2000)
  • Likeability is not Usability
      Experts disagree over whether users "like" useable systems as much as “cool”, but unusable, systems.  All would agree that if users can easily find what they need, then they like the site.

Why Web Usability?

Where does Accessibility fit in?

  • Accessibility is making a Web site usable to people regardless of their abilities or disabilities
    • Users working in a context very different from yours
    • Users not able to see, hear, move - not able to process some types of information easily or at all
    • Users who have difficulty reading or comprehending text
    • Users who might not be able to use a keyboard or mouse

Web Usability 'Rules of Thumb'

(the purpose of the site & users' needs control applicability)

  • Breaking/Slowing down Back button 
  • Taking over the user's browser 
  • Non-standard GUI use (scattered navigation) 
  • Lack of information - 'under construction'
  • Lack of navigation 
  • Headlines that make no sense out of context  
  • Jumping on latest buzzword
  • Slow server response time
  • Anything that looks like advertising
  • Using icons that aren't global
  • Making users scroll horizontally
  • Gratuitous use of animation or sound
  • Labeling site elements with cute or metaphorical names - use 'standard' labels
  • On text: don't overuse bold, don't use underline, don't write in solid linear blocks, don't use italics except when grammatically necessary 
  • The use of frames
  • Using 'click here' - link text should make sense read out of context
    Aim to:
  • Keep some global navigation on every page.
  • Always provide users with context
  • Keep the most important information 'above the fold' 
  • Keep consistent standards and conventions across the Web site
  • Design left, top navigation
  • Have site search available from all pages
  • Test on many different browsers & platforms & resolutions
  • Design pages easily readable in grayscale
  • Use Alt tags on all images
  • Keep image sizes reasonably small
  • Provide redundant navigation: links, search engine, site map or index; where appropriate
  • Provide a 'you are here' feature with navigation element changes
  • Use a Meta <TITLE> tag for every page - make it useful out of context
  • Have appropriate contact information on every page. Page contacts should answer all email quickly (with good form). Use webmaster@holycross.edu if in doubt
  • Keep the number of fonts low - aim to use one throughout your site
  • Have an FAQ area
  • Go easy on highly saturated color and background images 

Top Web Accessibility Tips

  • Provide text equivalents for all non-text elements  (including audio & video)
  • Ensure that information conveyed with color is also conveyed without color
  • Organize documents so that they can be read without style information
  • Provide redundant text links for each region of image maps
  • For data tables, identify headers
  • Make sure pages are usable without scripts and applets
  • Write links so they make sense out of context - don't use 'click here'
  • For more information see the W3C WAI Checklist http://www.w3.org/TR/WAI-WEBCONTENT/full-checklist.html


The work of the following experts on usability served as resources for this information:

Jakob Nielsen    http://www.useit.com
Jared Spool       http://www.uie.com
Ginny Redish     http://www.redish.net/
Keith Instone     http://usableweb.com/
Mark Pearrow     http://www.usablesites.com/


If you need assistance with design, or have questions, please feel free to contact Public Affairs at 508.793.2419 or by email at webmaster@holycross.edu for assistance.


4.06 jf