Usability is the Most Important Factor

What is usability? It means visitors to a web site can find what they are looking for. It means they don’t click around in the wrong places. It means things work they way people expect them to work.

Usability:  The effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction with which users can achieve tasks in a popular environment of a product.  High usability means a system is: easy to learn and remember; efficient, visually pleasing and fun to use; and quick to recover from errors.


Always follow the same mental map of other websites. 

A mental map is what people think of when you say something.  For example, if you think of “sink,” your mental model is that the cold-water knob is on the right and the hot is on the left. If the cold-water knob were on the left, then it would be breaking the mental model you have in your head. You would waste time using the sink. First you may think there is no hot water. Then you might test to see if the hot water was plumbed on the wrong side. Most people would give up and find another sink. 

The same thing goes for websites.  You do not want your website to “stand out” and be unique if that means making the navigation so complicated and losing the purpose of your site. Most people will give up. You want your website to be unique in terms of your branding and the layout of information while still allowing people to navigate around it very easily.

That means in your menu, Home should be on the far left and Contact should be on the far right. They should be named “Home” and “Contact,” not something clever. People don’t want to stop and think. The days of “surfing the Web” because it’s fun are over. Web users want to find what they are looking for and take the next step.

Test, test, test

It is always important to test your website on the users.  Testing a website allows the company see what terms they have used in the content or navigation are too technical for the average user.  It is a great way to increase the success of your website before making it live!


Know Your Audience

Do you know who is coming to your website? If you answered no, then you have a lot of research to do about your target market.  It is important to know who is using your website so as the designer you can adjust the inner workings of the website for those people with disabilities.


Things to remember about Usability:

  • Always test your sitemap on users and not the people in your office
    • Make sure that you are using everyday words rather than technical terms that only those knowledgeable about the field would understand
  • Be aware of the types of users that are coming to your website
    • Have outlets for those with disabilities
  • Do not break the mental model of websites just to make yours “stand out”
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