Leading usability guru, Jakob Nielsen tells us that “if people can’t use a web site they will go elsewhere” (ref 1), and of course he’s right. Unfortunately, most health web sites present information in a way which is hard for their users to understand (ref 2). Site developers do not conduct needs analysis so they have little or no idea who their users are and what they want.
Usability concerns whether the information is designed and structured in such a way that the user can get what they want from it. This means that there must be a clear method of organising the information and it must be clear to the user what they need to do to get what they want.
Top 10 tips for improving the usability of your web site
- Design the site in a clear and well structured way.
- Ensure that navigation makes sense to new visitors. They should be able to tell where they need to go within the first few seconds.
- Make text clear and readable, and ensure that it can be resized for those with visual impairments.
- The design should use engaging and appropriate graphics and colour.
- Make sure your homepage includes a clear statement of who the web site is for and what people should expect to find.
- Consistency is vital, both in your page layout and your navigation system.
- Aim for a low cognitive overhead. The longer it takes someone to learn how to use your web site, the more chance there is for them to go somewhere else!
- Test the site with users to ensure that they can browse and search effectively to find what they want.
- Ensure that the site works in all browsers (e.g. Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera etc.) without third-party plug-ins (e.g. Flash).
- Offer your audience appropriate interactive content. This will be different for each site, but may include feedback forms, email newsletters, eCommunities for online discussions and other personalised features.
- Nielsen, J. Two Sigma: Usability and Six Sigma Quality Assurance. Alertbox . 2003. 24-11-2003.
- Kalin, S. Mazed and confused. CIO Web Business Magazine . 1-4-1999.