Archive for the ‘usability’ Category

The Most ANNOYING Mistakes Webmasters Make

1If you want to make a successful website, then it’s rather important that you ensure your traffic likes visiting your site and that you aren’t unnecessarily aggravating them. If people find your site annoying to visit, then of course they aren’t going to want to go there too often and as such you aren’t going to make much money from it.

Now there’s an awful lot of literature online about what you should do on your website, but unfortunately not so much information on what you shouldn’t do. It seems that articles on web design would rather ‘accentuate the positive’ and as such a lot of sites continue with bad habits that could drive away their traffic even when they get a lot right.

Here then we will look at the most annoying, most frustrating and most generally irritating things that many websites are guilty of and at how you can avoid falling foul of them yourself…

Dead Links, Dead Images and Dead Sites

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One of the most frustrating experiences for anyone online is heading to a website or finding an article that you want to read, only to then discover that it’s ‘down’ and won’t work. This is even more frustrating when you then refresh it a few times and find it’s still ‘down’ and can leave you cursing the name of the website you’re meant to be visiting. This doesn’t only come across as highly unprofessional, but it can also destroy your trust in a site – you certainly wouldn’t want make any transactions on there!

So what can you do as a webmaster? Well step one is to search for those dead links and images – and there are many online tools that can help you to do that. Should you find any, then simply replace them with the correct links and make sure to repair them. Meanwhile to ensure that the site itself stays live; look into more creative hosting solutions which may include a dedicated server or cloud hosting. Either of these will help to ensure your site doesn’t go down and that it can handle more traffic.

Music

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Sites with musical backgrounds are clearly well-intentioned, but unfortunately they are also completely off the mark. What these sites forget is that most people who browse the web will do so while also listening to music of their own – which means that sites that play music do nothing but interrupt and make an awful noise. Worse is when you’re browsing the web in a library or somewhere else quiet, and suddenly the website starts blaring out aggressive tunes. So the answer is simple: don’t add music to a perfectly good website…

Large Images

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Also annoying are large images that take ages to load. On a regular PC this is frustrating because it slows you down, but on a mobile phone it’s even worse because it may end up costing you money or using up your data allowance. Keep your site as light as possible unless you have a particularly good reason not to.

Thick Blocks of Text

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Even more annoying are sites compromised of thick unnecessary blocks of text which aren’t at all broken up by headings or different fonts. These are incredibly annoying because they mean the visitor has to spend ages reading all the text thoroughly, rather than being able to simply skin for what they need. Don’t be so arrogant as to think that people won’t want to scan your text at all – we live in a high paced world and people want to get on with what they’re doing!

Annoying Comments and Opinions

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Some websites are simply annoying in terms of what they write, which is a difficult balancing act for the owner to get right. On the one hand, a little bit of controversy on a website can actually be a good and useful thing: if your site is controversial then that will mean it’s memorable and in turn it will mean people are likely to talk about it and spread links.

And at the same time, you of course should write using your own ‘voice’ and be true to your opinions. So what constitutes an annoying comment that your site would be better without?

Well there are many, but examples include ‘facts’ that haven’t been properly researched, opinions that are completely unapologetic and not explained, or anything that’s potentially offensive. In other words bad writing is annoying – so make sure to check your content over and to try and keep it professional.

Author Bio:
Nancy Baker, the author of this article, is a freelance blogger who is currently writing for NetDepot, leading providers of hosting solutions to enterprises. She is passionate about technology and enjoys writing about the latest developments. You can also follow her on Twitter @Nancy Baker.

Web Design 101: Please Don’t Squish the Type!

One of my favorite things about web design is the flexibility it offers in terms of how to lay out text. With the arrival of CSS several years back, suddenly web designers who came from a print design background (like myself) got the control they had been longing for. Not only could we control the typestyle and color, but now we could control line spacing and even letter spacing. Wow, what a wonderful thing.

And so I respectfully request, when designing your website: Please don’t squish the type!

What does”squish the type” mean?
When you arrive on a web page you want to be able to read what is there. But users do not read online as they would a magazine or book, instead they skim. They need the text broken up into bits so they it is easier to skim, and faster to grasp the content on the page. When you squish the type, you mush all the information into long paragraphs without a lot of visual breaks between the information (see screen shot below). If you add white space between your lines, and vary type size and color, it gives breathing room for your eyes, which makes it more likely a user will skim a little slower.

Here’s an example of a web page that needs help. They are really squishing the type. It’s unlikely anybody will get beyond the second paragraph because that third paragraph looks intimidating!

How users read online
It has been conjectured that browsing a website is a cross between reading a book and watching TV. When somebody reads a book, their mind is engaged in actually comprehending the words through the act of reading. They usually don’t have visuals (if it’s a novel say), so their mind is also actively engaged in visualizing what they are reading about.

On the flip side, when somebody watches TV, they don’t have to do anything mentally in order to take in the information. They just stare at this big box, and watch what is shown. Hence the term “couch potato”.

Usability experts have shown through research that browsing the Internet is somewhere in between. Some users will be engaged mentally, while others want the website to do the work for them. You must plan for this when you design, because most people will not read the precious words you have written, so you must help them read it.

Lay out your type so people will read it

  • Use bold headlines.
  • Create a larger, introductory paragraph that summarizes the page.
  • Don’t have long paragraphs – break up the paragraphs into more bite-size pieces.
  • Use line spacing to bring white space between the lines of text
  • Do not make columns of text more than 550 pixels wide
  • Use subheadlines as much as possible
  • Use bulleted lists as much as possible
  • Hyperlink keywords and important points so users can get more information, and so it makes the key concepts easier to skim.

Oftentime clients will have great concerns about not creating scrolling in an article, and they want to squash all the lines together to keep everything within one page length. The only trouble with this theory as while it might prevent scrolling, it also inhibits reading. So would you rather they read the first couple paragraphs and not scroll, or read nothing at all? Besides, current usability studies show that users will scroll if they are interested in the content.

What you SHOULD do
Here’s an example of the same page shown above in a much more readable fashion. The user can now decide how much or how little to read.

Site referenced here: http://www.capdsupport.org

User behavior is part of the design process
We must remember how users read content, and only then commence with the creation of that content. How type is laid out should be considered when type is written. You put a lot of effort into creating your website, you certainly want to encourage everybody to enjoy your great work!

Who the Heck Cares About Usability?

Designing a website is not all about appearance, and this often comes as a shock to new clients who think color, design and personal preference are the most important pieces of the puzzle. It is often in that first design discussion that we find ourselves in the middle of a usability lesson, explaining to our client how people who visit their site are truly viewing it.

Your Users Care the Most
You have only seconds to capture the attention of your users, which means you only have seconds to lose them. If your site is a challenge for them, they aren’t going to stick around and muck their way through it. Usability is all about making your site simple, clear and even fun to use. Poor usability is the #1 reason you will lose eyeballs.

How Usable is Your Site?
To determine if your site is usable, you need to do some research. You can do some preliminary analysis of your site by reviewing some of the following usability checklists:

Users know best
To do some truly effective research, ask some of your current users if they would provide some input. We highly recommend that you collect a half dozen or so clients and ask them to answer some of the questions from the usability assessments presented above. This will give you a real picture of how those outside your organization see your site.

Don’t just listen, fix it
If your users come back with critique, listen closely. Then do something about it. Don’t just say thank you and continue to let your site stand as it is. Consult with a web designer who understands usability and then make the appropriate changes to bring your site in line with effective usability. Not only will this help with new customers, but it will let your current customers know that you take your comments to heart.

The Golden Design Rule: Usability Before SEO

When designing websites for clients, it often amazes me how many clients consider SEO (search engine optimization) more important than the needs of a user. They want to stuff pages with keywords or deviate from web design standards in order to accomplish what they feel is more important — attracting more users.

Why put SEO before Usability?
Whether building a new site, or rebuilding an old one, all site owners have the same dream: to bring on a drove of users who will roam their site and hire them or purchase their products. After all, this is why you have a site, isn’t it? And most believe SEO is the key to obtaining more eyeballs through organic search. But attracting the users is only part of the puzzle.

A high jump rate tells the story
If they come but don’t stay, you’ve missed the opportunity to convert a new client. If for some reason your site isn’t user friendly, then you’re going to have a high jump rate that proves it, and then you might understand why you have a lot of people visiting, but very few inquiring about your services. The jump rate is the percentage of people who leave your site immediately after landing on a page. You can refer to your analytics software to measure your usability rating for your site.

Optimum usability keeps the eyeballs
When designing your site, the needs of the user should always come before SEO implementation. For example, if you are organizing your information architecture and trying to include your keywords into the headings, make certain it will make sense for your visitors. If your menu tags are long, or the terms don’t make sense, then you need to reconsider how it’s organized.

For example, let’s say you have a company that is in construction. You know many people search for construction under specific terms such as home construction, commercial construction, public works construction, etc. You should not create a menu structure that addresses each of these types of construction. It would be overwhelming for the user to navigate through all these words. Instead, you should have a menu item that talks about your construction services, and within the body of the page, describe the specific services provided. Or, have a primary menu item labeled construction, and have a sub page for each type of construction.

I have gathered together several articles that talk about usability. Many point to usability vs. SEO choices which you should consider on your site. Just remember the golden rule: Usability before SEO.

Design Your Navigation From The Outside In

One of the biggest mistakes companies make when designing a website is labeling and organizing the information with the terms the internal company uses. It is very important when organizing your content to look at it from the user’s perspective, not the company’s.

How Do I Organize From the User’s Perspective?

1) Who are your visitors?
The first thing you do when creating your website is ask yourself who is coming to this site and why are they coming. What are their ages, computer experience, knowledge? What need do they have that you are going to fulfill? This gives you a picture of the user-types who will be accessing the information. Any time during the following process if you are unsure of how to organize your information, go back to this first question to get the answer.

2) How do we currently interact with these users?
What questions do they ask us to elicit information, and what information do we give in response? This is the beginning of understanding the labels your customers use in relation to your business. The receptionist in a company is often the best person to answer this question.

3) How do our users see our organization?
Now looking at the information that your users are seeking, consider how this information would be logically organized. Consciously put aside the method your company uses to organize this information. This is generally the most challenging part of the process since you are used to looking at your information in a particular way, and you must move back and take another perspective.

For example, if you were a physical therapist, you might not organize your information with the therapies you provide. Instead you may organize it by the physical challenges the users face, and within those pages talk about the therapies that apply to those challenges. In this way you’ve related the information to your users rather than how you related to the types of therapies.

4) Create an outline of how users would see the information organized.
Consider the categories and subcategories of information. Do not forget to include site basics such as how to contact your organization and brief description of your company’s purpose (even if you feel your clients know this already).

5) Label your categories.
This part is often tricky as different people within the company will have different opinions about which labels to use. Cutesy labels are definitely poor usability and should be avoided. Labels should describe the information that page contains, or at the very least be a branded term that your clients know the meaning of. Labels should always be the same part of a sentence (noun, adjective, verb) or similar phrase structures. Consistency in labeling makes your site predictable.

6) Ask some users for feedback.
Share what you have organized with typical users from your client base. Ask them for feedback. Be open to their responses, and allow them to assist you in creating a logical and easy-to-use organization of your information.