In very general terms, ‘Usability’ is how easy something is to use, interact with, and learn. The term & concept can be applied to just about any process, tool, software program, application, book, web site, or pretty much anything that a human can interact with.
Usability is normally comprised of key components including: learn-ability, efficiency, memorability, errors, and satisfaction. It is a quality attribute and a way to determine whether something provides the features you need, how easy it is to use, and how useful it is found to be (does it do what you need it to do?)
For web sites, usability is very important.
Generally speaking, if a website provides useful, well organized, and navigable information in a well structured and visually appealing layout, it is likely to attract and retain users. However, if a website isn’t usable, people will leave.
- If users can’t find what they need or if a website is difficult to use, they leave.
- If users get lost or can’t navigate a website, they leave.
- If a website homepage doesn’t clearly state what the website or company is about, users leave.
- If a website is hard to read, users leave.
So, even though you may have a website that looks great and contains good content, if it isn’t usable, it may not be successful.
Designing a Website with Usability in Mind
Good design is often simple and easy to understand and follow. When it comes to designing a website, keeping things simple, easy to use, and is visually appealing can result in a web site that creates positive behavior in users (i.e. they do what you want them to do), can create repeat users, and positively affect how users perceive your brand and your company.
How to Test Website Usability
To ensure that your website is usable and user friendly, you need to test, test, test it. Gather representative users (customers, employees, etc) and ask them to perform tasks with the web site and design. Watch them as they interact with your website and note what they are easily able to do and what they find difficult. Per your findings, change the difficult things to make your website as user friendly as possible.