Website Usability Guidelines
A critical, but often overlooked component of a successful website is its degree of usability. Your site must be easy to read, navigate, and understand. Some key usability elements include:
- Simplicity: The best way to keep visitors glued to your site is through valuable content, good organization and attractive design. Keep your site simple and well organized.
- Fast-loading pages: A page should load in 7 seconds or less via dial-up; at more than that, you’ll lose more than half of your potential visitors.
- Minimal scroll: This is particularly important on the first page. Create links from the main page to read more about a particular topic. Even the Search Engines will reward you for this behavior.
- Consistent layout: Site layout is extremely important for usability. Use a consistent layout and repeat certain elements throughout the site.
- Prominent, logical navigation: Place your menu items at the top of your site, or above the fold on either side. Limit your menu items to 10 or fewer. Remember, your visitors are in a hurry — don’t make them hunt for information.
- Descriptive link text: Usability testing shows that long link text makes it much easier for visitors to find their way around a site. Long, descriptive link text is favored by Search Engines, too. Back links are important to give users a sense of direction and to keep them from feeling lost. Use a site map, and breadcrumbs, if necessary.
- Cross-platform/browser compatibility: Different browsers often have different rules for displaying content. At a minimum, you should test your site in the latest versions of Internet Explorer (currently, versions 8 and 9), as well as Firefox and Safari.
- Screen Resolution: Screen resolution for the typical computer monitor continues to increase. Today, the average web surfer uses a resolution of 1024 x 768 pixels. However, you need to make sure that what looks good at this setting will also work nicely for other resolutions.