The Basics of Online Usability

If you have an e-commerce site, business site or online tool, the usability of the website is very important. The usability of your business website can make the difference between a lot of paying customers or none. In this article we take a look at the basics of online usability:

Make sure that hyperlinks look like hyperlinks. Designers don’t like the ugly blue underline of hyperlinks, but users are used to it and they know in an instance that the text is a link. Studies show that people will click an underlined hyperlink sooner, then a hyperlink that is not underlined. A hyperlink must also change colour when the user has visited that link.

The navigation (menu structure) of your site is one of the most important usability aspects. So you have to make sure that people can easily navigate your site.

If your business site has many layers, then you have to make sure that people know on which page they are and in which category. A perfect method to achieve this is by using the so called “breadcrumb method.” This method lets the user see which “road” it travelled by showing a keyword that explains what is on that page.
For example: Home > Cars > Audi > Audi-A5

Visitors expect a homepage hyperlink in the upper-left corner. People like to start on the front-page if they start browsing through a new category. Most people get frustrated if there is know easy way back to your homepage and frustrated people won’t buy.

Position of different website parts
Make sure that the different website parts are placed where they belong. The business logo for instance: must be placed in upper-left corner. Most website designers also make the logo the hyperlink to their homepage. The search form must be in the upper-right corner.

Thirty second rule
The thirty second rule states that visitors of your business site can see who you are, what you do and which link they have to click to get to the requested product or service. Most of the visitors will leave if they cannot do this and thus your are losing potentially customers. To test the thirty seconds rule you can ask someone — who doesn’t know your site — to test it.

Fifty percent of the people rather make use of a search option then that they make use of the menu. So you have to make sure that you give the option to search your site.

Speed of the site
People don’t like waiting. Studies show that flash intros don’t add additional value to your sales. (Flash movies on a page can add additional value to your page, if it is about a product you sell. Make sure that the customer can start and stop the flash movie.) So lose the flash intro to speed up the loading time of your site. You can also go through the html code of your pages and remove anything that is not especially needed. Keep the loading speed as high as possible or you will lose customers.

Website designers often like to use small font sizes, but if the customers can’t read the text, they will leave. So make sure that font-size isn’t below 11pt.

If you don’t follow these basic website usability rules then you will lose customers and thus money.

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