Usability principles are based on increasing visitor satisfaction, which determines whether or not the visitor stays on our site and returns to it later. Usability factors promoting visitor satisfaction include the following:
The site must be easy to use. Viewers will quickly leave a web site that is too complicated or that requires extensive onscreen explanations. In either case, the designers have not put enough thought into the design. We need to do the thinking so that users don’t have to. A consistent and predictable organization, presentation, and interaction style promotes a faster learning curve and a resulting increase in visitor efficiency, and therefore, of course, user presence and loyalty.
Visitors have no patience for slow. Unfortunately, some visitors are still on dial-up lines with slow modems. Consequently, we should limit the sizes of our files. We also shouldn’t require excessive clicks from visitors, because every new page requires a page load. We must establish clear and concise navigation so that visitors don’t take wrong turns, again slowing them down. Ideally, we would like to deliver a visitor to his or her target within three clicks.
If the visitor must wait for something, we should warn her of that fact. For instance, a small animation that visually illustrates progress can indicate that the system is indeed doing something and hasn’t just locked up. It’s much like background music on a telephone call when you have been put on hold—you might not like the music, but at least it confirms that the connection isn’t broken.
Keep in mind that all of the aesthetic and interaction factors we are going to examine determine the usability of a site. For instance, a poor layout or irritating color scheme will, of course, degrade usability. After all, what is usability if not the result of effective design choices?