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  1. #1
    Junior Member princeton's Avatar
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    In the late 90's, I took a Human Computer Interface course. This was the first time the word "usability" came into my life.

    "Usability is a combination of factors that effect a user's experience when interacting with a product or system."
    At the time, I didn't have a clue that this course would have an impact on my daily activities. I am surprised at how important usability is in our everyday life.

    What is Usability?

    Usability exists everywhere!

    Do you know that major corporations pay $$$ to find out...

    1. The proper location of an ON/OFF button of a remote control.
    2. How to produce an ON/OFF button that is more visible?
    3. How to create a broom that is more user friendly? (Funny huh? It's true. Have you seen the variety of brooms out in the market today?)
    Why does it cost money? Time is money. Would you spend thousands or millions on a system that does not work?

    The same thing applies to web design. People do not want to spend money on designs that do not work.

    Usability is a combination of factors that affect a user's experience when interacting with your web site interface. According to web usability guru Jakob Nielsen characteristics of usability are:

    1. Learnability : The system should be easy to learn so that the people can start getting work done.
    2. Efficiency of use: The system should be efficient to use, so that once the user has learned the system, a high level of productivity is possible.
    3. Easy to remember: The system should be easy to remember, so that the casual user is able to return to the system without having to learn everything all over again.
    4. Errors: The system should have a low error rate. If an error occurs, does it allow rapid recovery from errors?
    5. Satisfaction: Is the user happy with the system?
    Usability testing?

    Designing and developing a successful system is about creating a positive user experience. However, creating this experience requires more than just a great design - it's about creating a useful and usable design that is right for your intended target audience.

    Research has shown that users cannot find the information they seek on Web sites 60% of the time.

    Other sources report:

    • "There are about 43 million Web sites, and no one knows which ones are usable. The best sites we've found are usable only 42 percent of the time, and none that we have studied are usable a majority of the time..." - (Jared Spool)
    • Studies by Forrester Research estimate several costs of bad site design. The two most striking are:
      • Losing approximately 50% of a potential sale due to "can't find product".
      • Losing repeat visits from 40% of the users who do not return to a site when their first visit resulted in a negative experience.
    • Usability guru Jakob Nielsen reports:
      • "Studies of user behavior on the Web find a low tolerance for difficult designs or slow sites. People don't want to wait. And they don't want to learn how to use a home page. There's no such thing as a training class or a manual for a Web site. People have to be able to grasp the functioning of the site immediately after scanning the home page - for a few seconds at most."
    Note: The above statistical information has been acquired from http://usability.gov/basics/

    Why Usability?
    "Users have an infinite potential for making unexpected misinterpretations of interface elements and for performing their job in a different way than you imagine."-- Jakob Nielsen
    1. Usability promotes good customer satisfaction.
    2. Positive PR.
    3. Optimal Return on Investment (ROI)
    How to test your system

    To test a system you must gather, evaluate, understand, improve, and define problems.

    To discover what is wrong with your system you must acquire a panel of individuals; individuals who have no biases and who will view the system with fresh eyes.

    For a private and professional free web site review submit your web site into SiteReview 101. SiteReview 101 can help you find errors that you may have overlooked. This service is especially useful for people who paid for "web design" services. Find out if you got what you paid for - you have nothing to loose but everything to gain!

    According to Jakob Nielsen the most common issues that arise during this testing period are:

    1. The system tends to focus on marketing messages rather than the standard tasks a user wishes to achieve.
    2. Navigation problems will emerge.
    3. Search problems, where the user can't find the search facility or finds that the results are not applicable.
    4. Speed problems, caused by bloated pages
    5. Consistency problems, layout has changed.
    You can also learn about problems by listening to your visitors, evaluating search logs and server logs.

    Recommended Books...

    If you want to learn more about Usability, have a look at the following books.

    Designing Web Usability: The Practice of Simplicity
    Creating Web sites is easy. Creating sites that truly meet the needs and expectations of the wide range of online users is quite another story. In Designing Web Usability: The Practice of Simplicity, renowned Web usability guru Jakob Nielsen shares his insightful thoughts on the subject. Packed with annotated examples of actual Web sites, this book sets out many of the design precepts all Web developers should follow.

    SITE-SEEING Site-Seeing takes a fresh approach to Web usability by applying visual communication principles and decision-making to Web design. Specifically, readers will learn the key concepts behind visual organization, look and feel, technical considerations, and clear planning that stem from audience awareness. Through numerous, full-color examples author Luke Wroblewski deconstructs "the good, the bad, and the ugly" of Web design.

    Homepage Usability: 50 Websites...
    This brief but important book lays out a specific five-step strategy--called the Core Process--that can always be applied to the development of Web sites and fine-tuned to almost any type of project. Each step--defining the project, developing site structure, visual design and testing, production and QA, and launch and beyond--contains three related but distinct tracks. The text begins with a brief overview of each of the steps, then delves deeper into each with detailed explanations as well as specific forms and project-management strategies. This book does not cover back-end, server-side programming. Instead, it focuses primarily on the visual, conventional components of a Web site.

    Original Usability Introduction can be found at gthelp - Web solutions for webmasters and business professionals.
    This article can be reproduced in its original form--no modifications allowed. I would appreciate an email or private message with URL of where it will be posted.
    ricardo1949 likes this.

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  3. #2
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    Good read.

  4. #3
    Senior Member sarab's Avatar
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    Wow, that was a long initial post...

    Perhaps dividing it into chapters would make it more useable?
    ...............................................
    My best pal's site: Algarve Beach Life :ichatcool:

  5. #4
    Senior Member jlgosse's Avatar
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    I don't see why he would do that.

    It's perfect.


  6. #5
    Senior Member sarab's Avatar
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    It was just a jokey comment, jlgosse. I thought the smiley gave it away?
    ...............................................
    My best pal's site: Algarve Beach Life :ichatcool:

  7. #6
    WDF Staff Wired's Avatar
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    The Rules
    Was another WDF member's post helpful? Click the like button below the post.

    Admin at houseofhelp.com

  8. #7
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    Thanks for the tips on useability -- good introduction!

    In my opinion, one way to look at useability is to see it as access to content, and in that sense, some sites are difficult to use. In those cases, you can look for a search button or a link to a site map, but that doesn't always help, either.

    For several years, now, I've used tool tips on my links to give visitors an idea of what is at the other end of their click. And recently, I built pulldown menus for each main link. My thought being that pulldown menus open up the contents of a site more quickly and more visibly than link names, tool tips or site maps and search features, thereby making the site more useable.

    I'd love to hear other useability techniques and opinions on this important factor in web design... thanks!

  9. #8
    Senior Member sarab's Avatar
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    Your pulldown idea sounds good. Any examples that we can look at?
    ...............................................
    My best pal's site: Algarve Beach Life :ichatcool:

  10. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by sarab
    Your pulldown idea sounds good. Any examples that we can look at?
    My use of pulldown menus comes from the rule of thumb to <u>not</u> restrict guests to a top-down, in-line, guided-tour, previous-next style of access. Most, if not all require expert knowledge of javascript and browser compatibility, but only a basic understanding of style instructions to customize the menu for your own use. Most restrict sale, distribution and publication of the code, but not modification or use. And some do not require fees, monthly charges or second-party servers. Several years ago, the "hier" required a one-time fee and use on non-commercial sites. Try... www.webreference.com/dhtml. My favorite is the "brainjar" at www.brainjar.com

  11. #10
    pcx
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    long but very useful...i'm new here


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