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Usability refers to how easy the Graphic User Interface [GUI] on a device, application or Website is to use.

What is a GUI?

In the past, computers were only used by a small number of people (generally programmers) for specialised tasks and were extremely expensive to own and run.  They also required a high degree of learning and expertise to operate.  Nowadays though, computers are much lower in price and consequently; the number of people who use them grows daily. However, the people who use computers these days are rarely experts -- especially those who use computers to surf the Internet.

Applications like Websites need to be made as user-friendly as possible.  Users need to be able to understand how to operate their tools, access their features and utilise their navigational systems.  These tools, features and navigational systems are commonly known as the graphic user interface [GUI].

Measuring Usablity

The usability value of any device, application or Website can be measured using the following five usability rules:

  • Learnability: refers to how quickly the user can understand how to operate the GUI.  The quicker the user can achieve this, the sooner they can start using them to achieve the task at hand.
  • Efficiency: entails how efficient the GUI is and whether it productively executes the task it was designed to perform.
  • Memorability: relates to whether the user would be able to remember how to use the GUI after a period of non use.
  • Errors: refers to the amount that the user makes during their usage of the GUI.  Errors could be a direct result of bad programming or badly labelled interactive elements.
  • Satisfaction: entails the user enjoying the overall experience of using the GUI and consequently they receive satisfaction and more likely to return again.

No matter how great your Website looks, if it is difficult to use and visitors find it hard to reach the desired content, your Website is as much use as a chocolate teapot.

How do you know if your Website has a usability problem?

Look at your Website and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is it built for the people who are using it?
  • Are its users leaving too quickly?
  • Did they make contact with you or make a purchase?
  • Does it achieve all its objectives?
  • Does it deliver the correct message to your Website visitors?
  • Are all its pages consistent?

Another way to test the usability of your Website is to collect feedback and information from its visitors and regular users.  Data collected can be useful because it will inform you of where your Website is failing. Designers and developers may have created your Website according to your specifications, but ultimately it is the users who will decide its usability level.

How to improve Website usability

If you would like to find out your Website usability value or if you would like to know how you can increase your Website usability value, contact me.

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