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Usability Isn’t Expensive. It’s Practical. Usability is Useful.

456 Berea Street tackles “Usability Testing Without a Budget” is a prime example and explanation defending usability. It doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, it’s practical. It’s the difference between a successful, and potentially money making website, and a dud. The truth is, Usability is useful. And worth it.

Even larger projects can often lack a dedicated budget for usability testing. Maybe the client doesn’t think it’s necessary, maybe the budget is really tight, or maybe there are other reasons. Whatever. The good news is that you can squeeze in a low budget, quick and basic test anyway, which is much better than not testing at all.

It doesn’t really matter how much you know about usability – after working on a project for a couple of weeks you’ve become blind to many of the problems. Sure, experience will help you avoid making many design mistakes in the first place, but something will slip through. Every time. That’s why doing even a very basic usability test will improve your site. And here’s one way of doing it.

Author Roger Johansson goes on to explain how you actually save money by doing effective website design testing. They key is to test how visitors will use your site.

Possible tasks can be “Find the telephone number to the person in charge of sales”, “Place an order for product X”, or “Find out when and where such and such lecture is held”. If you know which areas of the site are the most critical, make sure to come up with tasks that involve those areas.

Tips are provided to help you understand how the website testing process works and how to get the help you need, on a low or no budget plan, in order to help the website developer and designer determine the usability of the website.

I want to take a moment to talk about what usability means to the website developer and designer, and how it applies to you, the blogger.

First off, let’s look at the difference between usability and accessibility. They are related and yet different topics of concern for website development.

Accessibility is the development of a website or blog to be accessible to everyone. This means that the design must meet web standards and pass a range of validation tests in order to be compliant with many countries accessibility and equal opportunity laws. It also helps the website owner/administrator to have a website that can be viewed and used by the disabled, blind or visually impaired, those using cell phones, handheld computers, web-TV, and older and newer browsers. In other words, accessibility means designing a website that can be seen and used by everyone and anyone.

Usability is the ability to use the website. Yes, designing for accessibility lets the disabled and those using non-traditional methods of viewing websites use your website better. Usability is actually more than that. It looks at how users use your site.

As Johansson explains, good tests for website usability comes from real life situations. What are people looking for? How are they looking for the information? Where will they look on your website for that information? Have you made it easy to find? Can they move around on your site to find what they need, or even more information than they thought they were looking for?

Blogs and Website Usability

These are the questions that need to be considered by every blog designer, developer, administrator, and owner. Okay, every blogger, since many bloggers are website designer, developer, administrator, and author.

How Do People Land on Your Blog? How do your visitors arrive? From a search engine, blogrolls, or articles about your blog? Do they stumble upon it or arrive knowing you are an expert and resource for what they need? Does your blog content match the search engine keyword requests that bring people to your blog?

How Do People Find Information on Your Blog? Once they arrive, how do they move around your blog to find the information they need? What tools are you using to help them search and find information? Do you have a search box? Do you use site search tags, a tag heat map or cloud, lists of recent or related posts? Do you have a site map or index? Can they easily find out who you are, what the purpose and goal of the blog is, and how to contact you?

How Do People Move Around on Your Blog? How does your navigation on your blog work? Do you have next and previous post links on every post? Do you have categories, tags, or other links to help navigation? Are the navigation links clearly defined? Easy to find?

What Information Do You Provide on Your Blog? Do you have the information people are looking for? Not just content information, but what about links to related materials, information about you and your expertise, how to contact you, related resources, and other information necessary to your blog’s success?

How Well is Your Content Categorized? Categories help people track down related material based upon the category they reside in. For instance, if you were interested in more WordPress Tips, you would check that category of posts on this blog. Are your categories well organized? Do they accurately represent the content found within them? Do you have a few specific categories, or do you have dozens of scattered categories? Are they working for you?

These are just a start to all the questions you need to ask yourself about your blog and how users use your blog. You can answer all of these, I’m sure, but that’s just your opinion. To really find out how useful your blog design and layout is, you will have to get it tested and evaluated by other users to get their opinion.

You can have friends, neighbors, co-workers, and strangers on the street test your blog and report back to you. You can stand over their shoulder and ask them to tell you what they are doing and thinking as they move around your blog, or trust them to write out or report later with a thorough review. You can also take advantage of getting your WordPress blog reviewed (WordPress blogs only) by volunteers in the WordPress Forum “Your WordPress” review section.

Listen to what these people have to say about your blog and how they use it. Take lots of notes. You don’t have to use every bit of advice, but look for redundant comments. Are there several comments about the lack of a site map or the inability to contact you? Are several people having trouble moving around and searching your blog? Pay close attention to what they say and then do what you can to make improvements.

While users are stuck with the WordPress Themes pre-installed and have no ability to tweak the design, fabulous as they are, work behind the scenes continues to convince WordPress Theme designers to thoroughly test their WordPress Themes before releasing them to the public and WordPress.com Theme choices to maximize all web standards for accessibility and usability.

Follow Johansson’s advice and thoroughly test your blog’s design and layout with others to maximize your visitor’s experience, not just your need to have a pretty site. The better people can use your site, the more likely they will return.

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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen

2 Comments

  1. Posted February 21, 2006 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    I have a question regarding blog usability. Usability says that we should let the user do most of the things with minimum clicks and scrolls. However, our blog pages are typically lengthy. This can be overcome by using wider resolution, which is not acceptable lot of times or using pagination. Is pagination for blog posts a good idea?

  2. Posted February 21, 2006 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    Pagination, hmm, let’s see how I can phrase this nicely. Oh, I can’t. Multiple pages suck. I’d rather scroll than click.

    Wider page layouts are ALWAYS a better deal in my humble opinion compared to forced, centered, and real estate wasting narrow layouts.

    The real point is why the blog’s pages are lengthy. Is it because of the layout, featuring long sidebars or huge footers? Or because a huge header has pushed the content down low. Or is it because there is a lot of content in the post. Then the question is if the post content is specific, to the point, or run off at the mouth and redundant. Better writing will always encourage people to scroll down, caught up in the story or information.

    There was a lot of hype about how web pages needed to be no more than a screen or two in length and that no one would ever read past the first screen or two. That is a true and false statement.

    If the person is hunting for information and they don’t find it in the first screen or two, they will go somewhere else. If they do find the information, or a hint that the information will be there, they will scroll down to read it. I’ve seen this time and time again. But with so many people doing more searching than reading, the numbers reflect the search and not the reading.

    Either way, I saw several “trends for 2006″ blog posts stating that among their top 10 things that should be gone in 2006 and in the future of the web, multiple page posts was near the top.


17 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Great WordPress Resource – Lorelle on WordPress

  2. [...] Taking a cue from Lorelle’s article – Usability Isn’t Expensive. It’s Practical. Usability is Useful, this is an effort to extend it to all softwares – web and desktop both. [...]

  3. [...] Yes, I consider Help to be part of usability. Not because it is one of the core elements of usability, but because it can be a one-point stop for your users (visitors, readers) to know about your website, to know about the usability features that your website has. Lorelle’s Usability Isn’t Expensive. It’s Practical. Usability is Useful. is an excellent guide to think about your website design from a usability point of view. [...]

  4. [...] Taking a few notes from a recent article I wrote on Usability Isn’t Expensive. It’s Practical. Usability is Useful., Abhijit Nadgouda @ iface decided to take his WordPress.com blog, a blog with no control over the look of the WordPress Theme or any core programming files, WordPress Plugins, or templates, and put into practice what he is learning about usability. As with any other new thing, a new visitor of your website might feel a little alien to it. He/She can take up some time to learn a few things, see what features are available, understand behaviour of your website. This is because he/she does not know what to expect. The learning happens through discovery or experience which can either be the hard way or time consuming. The learning becomes even more important if there is more than reading on the website – like e-commerce or interactivity…This is also profitable for you as website/blog owners – more comfortable your users get, more of your website will be read. [...]

  5. [...] Related: Usability Isn’t Expensive. It’s Practical. Usability is Useful [...]

  6. [...] Related: Usability Isn’t Expensive. It’s Practical. Usability is Useful [...]

  7. [...] In “Usability Isn’t Expensive. It’s Practical. Usability is Useful.”, I explained: Accessibility is the development of a website or blog to be accessible to everyone. This means that the design must meet web standards and pass a range of validation tests in order to be compliant with many countries accessibility and equal opportunity laws. It also helps the website owner/administrator to have a website that can be viewed and used by the disabled, blind or visually impaired, those using cell phones, handheld computers, web-TV, and older and newer browsers. In other words, accessibility means designing a website that can be seen and used by everyone and anyone. [...]

  8. [...] In “Usability Isn’t Expensive. It’s Practical. Usability is Useful.”, I explained the differences, and similarities between accessibility and usability: Accessibility is the development of a website or blog to be accessible to everyone. This means that the design must meet web standards and pass a range of validation tests in order to be compliant with many countries accessibility and equal opportunity laws. It also helps the website owner/administrator to have a website that can be viewed and used by the disabled, blind or visually impaired, those using cell phones, handheld computers, web-TV, and older and newer browsers. In other words, accessibility means designing a website that can be seen and used by everyone and anyone. [...]

  9. [...] To highlight the fact that designing to meet web standards and accessibility standards and laws is actually good for your web page design and SEO practices, it’s just plain useful. In “Usability Isn’t Expensive. It’s Practical. Usability is Useful.”, I wrote: Accessibility is the development of a website or blog to be accessible to everyone. This means that the design must meet web standards and pass a range of validation tests in order to be compliant with many countries accessibility and equal opportunity laws. It also helps the website owner/administrator to have a website that can be viewed and used by the disabled, blind or visually impaired, those using cell phones, handheld computers, web-TV, and older and newer browsers. In other words, accessibility means designing a website that can be seen and used by everyone and anyone. [...]

  10. [...] a cue from Lorelle’s article – Usability Isn’t Expensive. It’s Practical. Usability is Useful, this is an effort to extend it to all softwares – web and desktop [...]

  11. [...] is More Than Words: The concept of user-friendly and usability is critical to a successful website. Understanding how people use websites, and how to make it easier to use them, is critical to make [...]

  12. [...] explore your blog’s usability. How easy is it to use? How easy is it to find the information the visitor is looking for? How easy [...]

  13. [...] Usability Isn’t Expensive. It’s Practical. Usability is Useful. [...]

  14. […] Usability Isn’t Expensive. It’s Practical. Usability is Useful. […]

  15. […] Usability Isn’t Expensive. It’s Practical. Usability is Useful. […]

  16. […] of your taste and goals with your blog. The second phase kicks in when you start to think about usability. How will people use this blog and how to make it more useful to […]

  17. […] key to using a comment live preview WordPress Plugin or feature is placement. Helping the user use the preview their comment as they make their […]

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