For the purpose of this paper, we would focus primarily on the technology of online usability and highlight certain aspects of the concept. The paper is to be divided in seven segments – the first presents the overview and the introduction; the second segment presents competitors; the third segment presents the needs and objectives of such websites and users; the fourth segment presents an account on the design and navigation; the fifth segment presents the heuristic evaluation and the sixth and seventh segments present the summarization of the key findings and certain recommendation strategies and lastly a list of references used to create this report.
For any organization to make its website and application extremely effective, it needs to check how “user-friendly” the website or other solutions is, and observing the manner in which such checking is done acts as an integral step in ensuring website effectiveness and efficiency. Testing by users done at the very prototype stage of the software development life cycle helps in avoiding the problems and the incidental bottlenecks in the process (Nielsen & Pernice, 2010). A number of online usability tools are present which helps organizations conduct such, and the following are three such mentioned;
- User Zoom: This is a flexible and remote online usability testing solution which is based on UX research platform and consists of several advanced online usability techniques and tools. It is a leader in usability testing and helps in providing qualitative as well as quantitative data and helps in identifying trends and analysis of such data. However, UserZoom is a pricey solution and might not be suitable for all users.
- User Testing: User Testing is a popular tool which has been in existence since 2008. It effectively offers longitudinal studies and is very unique as it lets the user to select specific demographics and specific segments of the website which needs checking. However, User Testing provides remuneration to the testers, therefore; it is of extreme importance to get an unbiased report and actual usability results.
- Validately : This is a new research and testing platform for usability which offers both the moderated as well as un-moderated tests and can be used for both the desktop websites and the mobile websites. However, it is very new in the market and needs for time to understand whether it is as effective as it promises to be (Prototypr, 2017).
Primary needs & Objectives
The opportunities for testing of online usability include – the baseline usability testing on the existing sites, card sort tastings to help in the IA development, focus group testing which includes surveys or interviews to establish the goals of the users; first click testing to ensure that the users follow the right path, wireframe testing which helps in evaluation of navigation, online usability testing to understand the interaction of users and lastly surveys of satisfaction to gauge how well the site or application is faring in the real world. The data thus gathered can be used to evaluate the usability, building recommendations, implement the recommended strategies and retesting the sites to test the effectiveness of changes (Fernandez, Insfran, & Abrahao, 2011).
Ideally, a website must have an interface which is easy to operate for the user and also easy to maintain for the company. Online usability is an aspect which should be present in all website and applications, which make the users remember how to operate it. This is especially true for websites which require not so much frequent usage, namely, bank websites, bill payment sites etc. The usability requirements for the site design should consist of the following aspects – efficiency of use, where the site design will be such that goals are accomplished in a timely fashion with or no errors; presence of intuitiveness which makes the site easy to navigate and learn; presence of attractive and eye-catching headings, buttons and help messages which make it simple for the users to understand and lastly, the interface should not be intimidating, frustrating or demanding, that is, have a low apparent workload (Bevan & Spinhof, 2007).
Contextual task analysis is a method by which, user requirements and expectations can be identified by observing the manner in which they presently perform a task. Accessibility can be facilitated when information regarding the majority of users can be acquired. Namely, providing ability to adjust the size of the fonts helps readers with impaired vision to effectively use the site or app. Also another example can be the form fields and error messages present in a website should not only open in dialogue text boxes but also should be in the form of text – to speech to help readers understand the errors.
Design and Navigation
Design aspects which must be followed by developers to incorporate and facilitate web usability are – keeping the navigational processes simple and effective and functional and efforts should be taken to reduce over-complexity; using a specific linear checkout procedure to promote transparency and ease of use; using very clear indications of errors if occurred at the checking out; making sure that the loading time is very fast and is not a time taken affair and lastly making sure that automation of search exists in such web usability (Cyr, 2008).
Ease in navigation is an aspect which must be given top priority in web usability and designing such. Websites lose customers and traffic, when navigation system used in them are confusing and improper. Hence, care must be taken in designing the usability and keeping the navigation aspects simple. The following principles can be followed to promote ease of navigation. These are – embracing predictability and controlling of uniqueness in areas where predictability is preferred; moving over from over-complexity and keeping simple and easy to comprehend; simplifying of topography and keeping white space is beneficial but control should be practiced on such not to over-minimalize; maintaining consistency and keeping stability in website designing; keeping the hierarchical structure clear in the navigation menus; keeping the design and navigation easily manageable; linking the logo to that of the homepage and every page of the website; including a sitemap in the website; keeping provision for more than one type of navigation menu and lastly and perhaps the most important, incorporating a search bar (Yan & Guo, 2010).
Information architecture is the actual work which goes into creating easy to use, unique and intuitive schemes of navigation for software and websites (Wodtke & Govella, 2011). The IA (Information Architecture) is applicable to websites and also on several web applications, social media software and mobile applications. IA helps in adding important context to a page and helps in making navigation easier for users. How navigation helps, and the key aspects of building an effective navigation is already mentioned. Following are the steps which helps in making an intuitive IA for websites and mobile applications – finding out primarily what the purpose of the website is, or in other words, why will traffic come to the website in the first place; secondly, determining the immediate as well as long term goals of the website or applications and understanding whether they are different; pinpointing on the intended audiences and conducting a specific analysis of their requirements for each of the groups; collecting content for site and creating an inventory for such; determining the organizational structure of the website which includes details of whether it will be hierarchical, or sequential, or broad/ shallow, or narrow / deep or will be tag based etc; creating the site outline which includes individual actions like determining the inventory of content and creating site maps; creating the website’s visual blueprint including decisions on wireframes etc; defining the navigation system and choosing whether it will be global or local and consist of utility links and lastly, conducting the user research and analysis of such data to infer specific theories (Usability First, 2018).
Mobile usability is the concept of usability in mobile devices like smartphones and tablets where the main focus is dealing with specific characteristics of these devices – that is, fitting larger volumes of information of smaller screens and smaller resources in comparison to the desktops or laptops. Mobile usability as a discipline is aimed at answering the following aspects – whether the users can conduct core tasks with the applications; whether the gesture control is easy to understand; whether app can be used in different mobile operating systems like, ios or android, whether navigation is easy; whether forms can be filled easily; whether the responsive designing works or not. Web usability and mobile usability though are disciplines based on the same principle, due to space limitations, mobile usability becomes a tougher challenge for requires separate IA and designing. Mobile usability can be effectively optimized by using buttons which can be easily tapped, using viable navigations, app designing be such so that the central themes are placed foremost, and actions should be taken so that unnecessary data downloads be avoided and images can be compressed to reduce data usage (Nayebi, Desharnais, & Abran, 2012).
Nielsen’s Heuristics, developed in 1994 is till date one of the best known sources and includes the following aspects – visibility of the system status, effective match between the real and the system world, providing freedom and user control, maintaining consistency and standards, prevention of errors, focus on recognition instead of recall, efficiency of use and flexibility, minimalistic designing, recovery from errors and assistance in documentation (Hart, Ridley, Taher, Sas, & Dix, 2008).
Conclusion & Recommendations
- The design needs to be crisp and simple. Focusing more on making the design slick might lead to unnecessary design elements, which in turn can make navigation difficult. Therefore, designing of apps or sites should be kept minimal and simple with required information and careful decisions must be taken regarding the use of colours, typefaces and the graphics in the website or applications.
- Visual hierarchy should be maintained and the website must have an effective system of arranging and organizing of information so that the first time visitors also develop a quick understanding of website and move towards the most important elements.
- Navigability must be kept based on intuition as such is important for ensuring that visitors locate for what the initially visited the site. The website structure must be kept simple and the navigation should be kept towards the top of the page as well as in the footer section of every page, usage of breadcrumbs in every page to keep track of the trail, inclusion of search boxes and inclusion of links.
- Maintaining consistency throughout the site should be maintained in terms of backgrounds, the schemes of colours, the typefaces, the writing themes etc.
- Accessibility is another factor which must be given importance, as with time, increasingly more customers are moving from the website to mobile / tablet based applications. Hence, compatibility with different devices is something crucial to achieve effective usability (Kim & Fesenmaier, 2008).
- Certain web design conventions like, using a logo at the top of the page, clickable logos, and main navigations on the top should be followed where required.
- Credibility and focus on user centricity are two aspects which are significant strategies for bringing back web traffic and for effective conversion into business.
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