I recently wrote a post over at Hongkiat about How to ruin a good user experience in 20 simple steps. As you can gather from the title, it’s got a bunch of different points that can cause a terrible User Experience
There is a lot of really useful information there, and it seems to me like the sort of thing that could be very handy in checklist form, and so I’ve made a checklist with a few extra points here and there, and some input on why I think these points are important.
Read on to see the key points, and grab the PDF download to print off to check your own sites:
This one is really simple; if a site isn’t usable, people can’t use it. If you can’t use it, you won’t come back, you won’t recommend it to others, and you’ll have a frustrating experience in the short time you do stay.
The opposite is true for a usable site – the more usable it is, the more people will enjoy it, the more likely they are to tell others about it, and the more likely they are to return to your site. It seems regardless of the type of site that you run, having more users on the site would be something you are aiming for; making you site more usable can help you with this.
Good content is obviously the basis of any good site; if there isn’t anything interesting to see, people won’t stay or come back to your site. Having interesting, well written content, even for sites selling something, really does add a lot of value.
Amazon is a good example of this; they allow negative reviews for everything to sell, and even though for some items it may cost them sales, it means people are inclined to trust them and come back to the site. I often look at Amazon for reviews, and end up buying products from there because I like the site.
For IntuitionHQ, we love to be able to give back to the usability and design communities by linking to useful resources on our Twitter and Facebook feeds, and writing (hopefully) useful and interesting content on our blog.
All of these points contribute to the usability of your site, but are worth mentioning as part of a sites design in its own right. Following design conventions helps make your site more logical and lowers the learning curve. Integrating social tools and using social proof helps people link with and trust your site. Knowing how to fail well can ensure your site works for all users, no matter what issues might appear.
I could go on, but the point is clear – you can make a much better experience for your users, and as I said previously, the more usable and enjoyable the site, the more people will come back. As I’ve quoted many times before:
Build it and they will come; build it well and they will come back
Keep all of these points in mind, and together with this checklist, you’ll soon have much better sites (and if you already meet all the points; kudos!)
- Usability test, start now and do it often
- Use analytics to see who goes where, what does or doesn’t work etc.
- Know your users, use personas, try and design to their usage habits
- Test compatibility with browsers/platforms etc
- Try card sorting and other ways to ensure logical navigation
- Check everything to make sure it works. Check often.
- Use the site yourself. Things that bother you are likely to bother others.
- Don’t limit fields for no reason (6-8 character passwords)
- Make it simple – sign up from sign in page; sign in from sign up etc
- Listen and use feedback – keep a list of it so you know what to watch out for
- Focus on content – make sure your content is better than average
- Keep it fresh
- Proofread – we all make mistakes, but at least try and have a read over everything first
- Make it easy to access (RSS, via email etc)
- Think about readability – use headings, subheadings, logically named pages – it helps with SEO as well
- Have print style sheets (if you’ve got content for printing)
- Use titles and metadata to make your site easier to search and understand – another SEO helper
- Make the important stuff stand out
- Follow conventions
- Make it social/Integrate your social presence/use social proof
- Fail gracefully – have helpful 404 pages with search, links etc.
- Focus on logical navigation, use breadcrumbs, make it obvious
- Have multiple sign in methods (Twitter, Facebook, Google, Open ID etc)
- Have a search box on your site – people need to find things
- Make it mobile friendly
Other important points:
- Using CAPTCHAS? Make sure they are actually readable
- Make it fun (see the Stack Exchange sites)
- Make it not suck
- Don’t ask for pointless details (address, zip codes, phone numbers)
The key point:
- Do it now
What does it all mean?
The last point here is the most point of all. Many people like the idea of usability testing and making a more usable website, but will put it in the pile of things to do, and never quite get around to it. If you really want to make a difference with your site, or those of your clients, set yourself some goals and get started. You can work on one or two different points each day, and after a few weeks you’ll have a noticeably better site.
Even if you only focus on a few of these issues, it will still make for a much better, more enjoyable experience on your site. Get out there, set up a quick usability test, and see what is or isn’t working on your site. Even if your site is 100% up to scratch, at least you can rest assured with that knowledge. If you do need to make changes, you’ll soon know what changes are most important, and what really needs work on your site. Simple, right?
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You may also be interested in Getting Started with Usability Testing in Seven Simple Steps and Saving Time with Usability Testing