Website Usability: how to solve issues with usability testing

Letizia Zappa
By Letizia Zappa

Usability may be the most vital indicator of websites’ effectiveness as it plays a crucial role in the interaction with customers. Learn all you need to know about website usability and how you can benefit from it.

website_usability

What is website usability?

Nowadays, a lot of time and money is invested in website development and promotion. To prevent all these efforts going to waste, it makes a lot of sense to focus on usability. Usability means “ease of use” and more specifically in the web era it can be defined as “the ease with which your users achieve their goals within your website”.

5 principles of great website usability: how can you improve your website usability?

Since usability as a  concept may appear a bit abstract, to make you quickly get a grip on it, we created a list of those key aspects you should focus on in order to better your website usability:

  • Navigation usability. Mind that a poor navigation experience is a top reason why users leave websites. All visitors should enjoy a pleasant, seamless experience without encountering difficulties, nor broken links on their path.

 

  • User interface. Customer experience is very important, the looks and the design of a website can matter a lot and should be shaped on the target audience. Also, it is vital for a website design to be supported by different devices.

 

  • Contents and graphics. A website owner should strike balance between content and graphics on her website. The content should be very clear and split into different web pages with a very intuitive logic.

 

  • Images and videos. Don’t forget that making use of images and videos is pretty much always a good idea. It takes users 10 seconds to judge a homepage and leave it if they are not attracted by it

 

  • Fast-loading web pages. “I love waiting” said no one ever. As shown in studies, the faster the website, the happier the user. For this reason, even Google introduced an algorithm based on speed.

Benefits: why is usability testing important for websites?

To assess whether or not your website is easy to use, you can carry out usability tests. In an era where the digital population is steadily growing and where users judge websites and their owners in 10 seconds, testing usability can bring a number of benefits:

Loyalty: users who enjoyed your interface are more likely to come back.

Reduce your costs: the sooner you discover what’s wrong with your website, the better for your wallet.

Understand your customer’s behavior: once you know how visitors move on your website, then you can target them better with strategically placed calls to actions.

Why is website usability important for user interface design?

The goal of user interface design is to make the user’s experience as simple and efficient as possible and to make it easy for her to accomplish her goals. For these reasons, website usability acquired meaningful importance in interface design.

Evaluation: how is usability measured?

Usability is evaluated with the so-called usability tests. Usability testing is defined as the evaluation of a product by testing it on potential users. In the tech field, it evaluates the important aspects of a product usability such as the overall structure, the clarity of contents and the navigation flow.  

Usability testing is entirely based on the end customer perspective and it has the final aim to understand whether or not an average user would find an interface easy to navigate and to explore.

 

Website usability checklist

The most common usability problems

Issues with usability are more common than it seems, we have listed here the most common usability problems you want to check and always keep an eye on.

  1. Inconsistency: the layout, the design, the buttons, and headers need to be placed in the right place.
  2. Stopping users from going backward
  3. Too high number of submenus
  4. Links opening in new windows
  5. Unstructured site-map

Examples of good website usability

To shed some light on what we mean by good website usability we have selected some particularly good examples:

Website_Usability_Airbnb

Airbnb landing page offers an intuitive and super quick way to book accommodation.

 

website_usability_uniqlo

This Uniqlo webpage is a good example of how submenus can be really helpful to quickly give users what they want.

Examples of poor interface and UX design

To compare and contrast we have also made a selection of poor interfaces and user experience designs.

website_usability_lingscars.com

Lingscars.com, with its confusing homepage, is a classic example of horrible (or at least questionable) user interface. Just click on the link and have some fun.

 

website_usability_Zara

Can you properly read all the submenus on this Zara webpage? We bet you cannot.

Usability website design

When looking at the examples above, it comes naturally to also wonder: what role does design play in usability? Website design is obviously important, in some areas (e.g. e-commerce) more than others. But mind this: there are out there a few websites with really beautiful looks but hard to use. Instead, there are lots of websites that are really ugly to look at but extremely functional. What does this mean? A website needs to first of all work, so the design has to take into consideration usability. It can be pretty, it can be even a work of art, but it MUST be usable.

Usability and a cool design are the perfect ingredients for website success, and it does not take a genius to figure this out. User-centered design, in other words, is vital for websites. Every feature, page, content needs to be easy to use, intuitive and beautifully designed. For further information on the topic, we suggest reading Albert Badre “Shaping web usability interaction design in context. Although published in 2002, it offers some core knowledge on web design usability best practices and web design usability principles.

Website usability testing

We wrote this article not only to explain to our customers what website usability is but to also give practical bits of advice and tricks on HOW to IMPROVE website usability. In this regard, website usability testing must be a top priority for all who want to have an effective website. The best way to find problems is by testing your website on real users. 

In this article, we are not focusing on any particular industry so the following suggestions can work for e-commerce website usability as much as they can for an online travel agency.

How to do website usability testing?

Although there are several methods available to test website usability, we made a selection with the most popular.

  1. Heat maps (also called click tracking method) are a visual presentation that allows you to see where users click on specific pages of your website, what was their “clicks pattern”.
  2. Eye-tracking technology allows website owners to study how users’ eyes move on the screen and which are the areas that get most of the attention.
  3. Surveys, especially on-site surveys are an effective way to test the user experience quickly and to the point.
  4. A/B testing is also a good method. By creating different versions (version A and version B) of a website and by closely comparing users’ behavior you can get to interesting conclusions.
  5. Moderated and Unmoderated testing are expensive but probably the most effective usability methods out there. If you want to learn more about this website usability focus group questions, we recommend you to read this article: https://www.userreport.com/blog/website-usability-testing/.

Website survey questions about usability

Surveys are usually a tool available for everyone, hence we decided to focus on the kind of questions that can be used to successfully test users’ usability.  These questions can also work as a website usability testing questionnaire example.

  • Do you like the visual design of the website?
  • Were you able to easily find all the information you were looking for?
  • Does the website appear professional and trustworthy?
  • Is the content on the website clear and written in plain language?
  • All in all, how would you rate this website?

Website usability guidelines and website usability criteria

We have outlined the different methods and questions, but how to proceed, how to start from zero? Here’s a quick checklist to help you in setting up the process.

  • Outline which aspects of your website you want to investigate
  • Design your usability test
  • Define the number of participants you want to reach
  • Set a deadline
  • Conduct a pilot study
  • Deploy your usability test
  • Analyze the results

Website usability design and performance metrics

Metrics are always an objective and effective way to measure success. Also in website usability, it’s possible to use metrics.

Satisfaction scores, churn rates, time spent on each page, heatmaps results and eye-tracking patterns are all good metrics to start assessing a website usability.

Usability standards for websites

Usability is often referred to as a “standard”. This means that there are some rules, some best practices, all websites ought to follow. Usability does not change from website to website, the areas that need attention are pretty much the same for all websites. As a matter of fact, the term “usability” finds its most popular definition in the International Standards Organization, the organization which promotes worldwide proprietary, industrial and commercial standards.

For products, interfaces, and websites it is important to fit into their industries and the first way to do this is ensuring to offer what all others can offer. The best way to do this? Following international standards. The European Commission itself has a space dedicated to web usability. Let’s go through the principles they list as “usability checklist”:

  • The findability of information
  • The accessibility and usability of the services
  • The consistency of the website
  • The logic behind the website structure
  • Presence of search features

Online tools for website usability questions

 

Finally, we also want to give you a hint towards useful online tools. There are different ones of course, according to your needs you may find which suits best for you, may it be a survey or space for users to leave their opinions.

UserReport can satisfy the needs of several website owners as it allows you to test your website usability in a quick and effective way. Also, it can offer a premade website usability survey template, easy to implement, easy to analyze.

Running as an integrated part of your website or app, UserReport survey allows you to:

  • Study your users’ heatmaps
  • A/B test your website
  • Ask specific questions to your users
  • Combine usability data with demographics

Get started and test your website usability!

Get started

Spread the word:
Free signup

Start building better products and customer relationships today

Get started