Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

Usability

Usability

Usability refers to how easy it is to navigate through your website. This is determined by aspects including the way your site arranges and displays information, as well as how comfortable it is for users to interact with it.

Usability affects search engine rankings, determining the number and quality of visits, as well as its conversion rate.

This article will address the following:

The main criteria of web usability

You can measure your website’s usability using the following criteria:

  • the learning process needed to browse the site
  • how its design affects the way that users browse it
  • the website’s information architecture
  • user efficiency when interacting with the site
  • possible programming errors

The main criteria to keep in mind when designing your website include:

  • portability – a site’s capacity to function on different browsers and devices – your site should be portable, so it can work on computers, tablets and smartphones 
  • total website loading time – it should load quickly and efficiently over a maximum of 2 to 3 seconds – there are useful tools to control website loading times
  • visibility of the site’s main sections – different sections should be easy to locate, so arrangement and positioning is important – the site should contain easily identifiable menus with clear sections
  • visibility of access to the homepage – the homepage should be highly visible and always accessible – we recommend linking to your homepage on one of the main menu sections, or creating a link to the homepage on the header
  • link visibility – website links should be easily identifiable and should stand out from general text – the easiest way to do this is by underlining the words that correspond to the link
  • positioning of contact information – your contact details should be easy to find so users can get in touch with you
  • sitemap – your sitemap includes the hierarchy of your website sections and helps to classify your website’s information to improve ranking – it should be clearly visible on the site. A number of online tools will help you create a sitemap
  • breadcrumbs – show users the section, subsection and part of the website they are located on, so they can orient themselves – breadcrumbs are a chain to help users move back to previous pages or the homepage, and they help to improve your positioning in search results
  • number of clicks from the homepage – users should not have to click more than 3 times to reach the ‘deepest’ part of your site

How to test the usability of your website

The following checklist will help you evaluate your site’s usability or future usability. The more ‘yes’ answers, the easier your website will be to navigate.

  • my website functions correctly on PCs and laptops, as well as on tablets and smartphones
  • my website functions correctly with the most common web browsers (Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, etc.), including their latest versions
  • my website takes no longer than 3 seconds to load
  • the main sections of my website are perfectly identifiable in a visible main menu
  • my site’s homepage is always easily accessible from anywhere within the website, whether it be via a link, a button, or a menu element
  • the links included on my web page are clearly identifiable, even when they are not being scrolled over
  • contact information on my website (telephone, address, email, contact form) is clearly displayed
  • my website includes a sitemap accessible to the user, allowing them to clearly see the structure and hierarchy of the site
  • my website includes breadcrumbs in every section, helping the user to navigate backwards and therefore facilitating their orientation within the site
  • all subsections of my website are accessible in a maximum of 3 clicks from the homepage

Tools to measure the usability of your website

There are many tools to help you correct any web usability errors on your site – including loading time, use of images and programming errors. These tools include: 

  • browser compatibility tests – to help you to discover whether or not your website is compatible with most web browsers, including older versions
  • device labs – to test how your site looks on a variety of mobile devices and to see whether it is compatible with smartphones and tablets
  • speed and performance tests – to detect elements that slow down your website, to measure your website’s loading time and to provide specific data on the elements that influence it
  • usability checklists – to measure the structure and navigability of your website via tests that will tell you if you have correctly constructed a hierarchy of sections and subsections
  • XML sitemaps – to construct a sitemap file for your website quickly and easily

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