Usability

Letizia Zappa
By Letizia Zappa

Usability is a term nowadays very diffused, specifically in website design. We aim to give our customers a simple but useful introduction to what usability is and how you can test it.

usability

Usability

Definition: What is Usability?

Usability is often defined as the ease of use of an object. Clearly, if we talk about products, it makes sense to consider products. When we are instead talking digital, then we consider usability as the ease of use of a website or an app.

It is an indicator showing whether or not a website is effective, easy to navigate and efficient from the users’ point of view.

Usability: A part of the user experience

Usability is often linked to user experience. But why is that?

User experience is defined by the ISO (the International Standard for Standardization) as “a person’s perceptions and responses that result from the use and/or anticipated use of a product, system or service”. It is clear that the overall feeling and perception of a website/app comes from usability. If on a website, I have difficulties while I am looking for an information or when I’m trying to buy a product, I will judge my user experience a poor one. If instead the website works perfectly and I can find and buy anything without any difficulties, then I will be satisfied with my user experience. Let’s say then that usability is an important part of user experience. 

Usability elements

Jakob Nielsen, user advocate and founder of the Nielsen Norman group, is considered the guru of usability.

He is famous for his “Usability 5 components”, let’s take a look at them closely.

  1. Learnability: how easy is it for first-time users to complete basic tasks on the website?
  2. Efficiency: once users know the website design, how quickly are they able to complete tasks?
  3. Memorability: when users return to the website after a period of not using it, how easily do they remember how to use it?
  4. Errors: how often do users make mistakes? How serious are such mistakes? Can users easily recover from these errors?
  5. Satisfaction: what’s the users’ overall satisfaction with the website design?

These answers are a very good indicator of websites’ usability. They check the utility, the easiness of the processes and the satisfaction users get from it. These five components can also be read as final goals website owners need to achieve if they want good usability.
Is your website usable? Test the five components and you’ll know!

Usability guidelines

Usability principles in website design

Clearly, websites features vary from site to site. There are some usability principles common to the majority of cases.

  1. Users scan web pages, they often skim-read text. Try to give only crucial information, use images and effective writing.
  2. Instant gratification. The less users wait, the better. Make sure navigation is great.
  3. 3 clicks rule. Users should be able to find the information they’re looking for on a website in 3 clicks or less.
  4. Users like to have control: give them the chance to go backward. This means: avoid links opening in new pages.
  5. The more you test, the better. Testing usability is the best way to render websites more effective.
  6. Aesthetics matter. Always.

usability

What are the best questions for usability test of websites?

We’ve just mentioned how vital it is to test usability. In usability tests, users are asked to complete a task on a website while moderators observe them and/or ask them questions. Let’s now give some examples of usability test questions.

  • On a scale from 1 to 10, how easy was it to find information?
  • How likely is it you would recommend our website to friends/colleagues
  • How easy did you find navigating the website on a scale from 1 to 10?
  • What would you change about your experience?
  • Were the contents clear and the information complete?

Usability guidelines for mobile apps

Nowadays, mobile traffic is skyrocketing. Both smartphones and mobile broadband subscriptions are must haves. As much as it is important to have effective websites, so it is to have a perfectly working mobile app. Let’s dive in a little deeper in the usability best practices for mobile apps.

  • Every app screen should have a clear focus and priority. Screens are small, remember this.
  • Back buttons must be clearly visible, they’re very important also in apps design.
  • Maximize experience across every mobile orientation. People rotate and zoom, be sure your app will always perform well.
  • Auto filled customer data are cool on websites but even cooler and more helpful on apps.
  • Aesthetics matter. Always.

Examples: What are the most typical usability issues?

But what are the reasons pushing users to leave a website? What are the flaws that reduce usability?

  • Slow loading pages. If people have to wait more than expected, they will probably find another website.
  • Too many sub menus and overload of information can create confusion and stress.
  • Lack of site structure: it is good practice to have a clear site map that users can easily understand and use.
  • Inconsistency in the design. Looks matter also on the web: every page and feature of the website should look alike (e.g. same colors, font, style).

Free online website usability tool

UserReport is an online software that allows you to test your website on real users.

It is based on two simple tools – a survey and a feedback forum. Running as an

integrated part of your website or app, it enables you to have direct interaction with your users

and learn

  • If they find your website usable
  • What their expectations are
  • What they think you can improve

This way you will be aware of users’ likes and dislikes and you’ll have precious insights to improve your website.

Get started testing your website!

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