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Web usability is the ease of use of a website. Some broad goals of usability are the presentation of information and choices in a clear and concise way, a lack of ambiguity and the placement of important items in appropriate areas. Another important element of web usability is ensuring that the content works on various devices and browsers.
Web Usability includes small learning curve, easy content exploration and findability, task efficiency, satisfaction, automation. These new components of usability are due to the evolution of the web and the devices. Example: automation: autofill, databases, personal account; efficiency: voice command (siri, alexa,...etc); findabiltiy: the number of websites has reached 4 billions, with good usability, users have more success to find what they are looking for in a timely manner. With the wide spread of mobile devices and wireless internet access, companies are now able to reach a global market with users of all nationalities. It is important for websites to be usable regardless of users languages and culture. Most users conduct their personal business online: banking, studying, errands,..etc which opened represent a tremendous opportunity to people with disability to be independent. Therefore, websites needs to be accessible for those users.
The goal of web usability is to provide user experience satisfaction by minimizing the time it takes to the user to learn new functionality and page navigation system, allowing the user to accomplish a task efficiently without major roadblocks, providing the user easy ways to overcome roadblocks and fixing errors and re-adapting to the website or application system and functionality with minimum learnability.
Ergonomic Requirement Approach
According to ISO 9241(Ergonomic Requirements for Office Work with Visual Display Terminals), usability is "the extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction in a specified context of use". Therefore, web usability can be defined as the ability of Web applications to support web-related tasks with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction. Effectiveness represents accuracy and completeness when users achieve a specified goal. Efficiency is resource cost in relation to the accuracy and completeness. Satisfaction is the comfort and acceptability of use.
With so many different mobile devices (screen size, make,..), it is crucial to consider how the users accomplish their task on a small screen. Web usability components should be met for the mobile device. The users should be awarded with the same feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment as if they had used a desktop or laptop.
- See also "Mobile Usability" by Jacob Nielsen
Multilingual websites should offer the same experience to the users, regardless of the website being in english, German, or Japanese. Websites should render the same way in all languages and all devices. UI Alterations because the language and characters used should still provide the different components of usability.
Nielson's 10 heuristics
Jakob Nielsen's heuristics are widely adopted in Interface Design. It provides expert reviewers a set of principles to discover usability problems and then categorize and rate them in a quick way. This set of heuristics includes Visibility of system status, Match between system and the real world and so on.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
W3C, the main international standards organization for the Internet, released its guidelines on Web accessibility issues. For WCAG2.0, there are 12 guidelines follow 4 principles: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable and Robust. W3C also provides a detailed checklist for this set of guidelines.
To attain universal usability for Web-based services, designers and developers should take technology variety, user diversity and gaps in user knowledge into consideration.
Technology variety arises from a broad range of hardware, software, and network access. People are using different hardware and software to access web services. For example, reading a document with smartphone doc reader is different from opening this document with Microsoft Office on a laptop. Also, opening a webpage with 100KB/s bandwidth may lead to failure when it's designed for 2MB/s. Ensuring usability of different platforms can be challenging.
User diversity influenced by many factors, including culture, personality, age, gender, race, ethnicity, disabilities, literacy, income, skills and knowledge. Considering the need of different groups is providing access to more people. For example, providing strong contrast mode for people with color weakness will help those people utilize the web service.
Universal usability means not only meet users'current needs, but also build ladders for users to enjoy more features of web services in the future. This gap in user knowledge can be filled with training section, help desk, discuss group and so on. Designers should be aware of the need of extra help.
Usability testing is evaluating the different components of web usability (learnability, efficiency, memorability, errors and satisfaction) by watching the users accomplishing their task. Usability testing allows to uncover the roadblocks and errors users encounter while accomplishing a task.
As more results of usability research become available, this leads to the development of methodologies for enhancing web usability. There are a number of usability testing tools available in the market.
In the context of e-commerce websites, the meaning of web-usability is narrowed down to efficiency: triggering sales and/or performing other transactions valuable to the business.
Web usability received renewed attention as many early e-commerce websites started failing in 2000. Whereas fancy graphical design had been regarded as indispensable for a successful e-business application during the emergence of internet in the 1990s, web-usability protagonists said quite the reverse was true. They advocated the KISS principle (keep it simple, stupid), which had proven to be effective in focusing end-user attention.
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