Usability - Getting your page read

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A tremendous amount of research has been done on usability. Usability is defined (in human-computer interaction and computer science) as "the elegance and clarity with which the user interface of a computer program or web site is designed".

In otherwords, your web page should be easy to read, understand and use. Another definition: "A usable system is one which enables users to perform their job effectively and efficiently." 

Tip

  • A month after you have created your web site, go back to it. Instead of just looking at it, checking if the links work etc., just sit and read the page. Are you tired (or bored)? If so, make the following changes:

 

1) Color: Make your page usable and easy to read.

If your page has 500 words of text, make sure that the text includes good spacing and is on a color scheme easy on the eyes. While a green text on a yellow background might look nice at first glance, it is hard to read. Your eyes (and thus your brain) work hard to understand all the information being projected. Black text on a white background is still the easiest to read and causes the least amount of eye-stress and tiredness and headaches.

 

2) Use headings to break up the text for usability.

Because the computer screen is projecting light, the brain must work harder to view the text. Adding sufficient white space helps. This means that left and right margins are necessary and text should be broken up. Using headings and sub-headings allows your visitors to scan the contents better and faster.

 

3) Easy-to-read fonts.

Fancy fonts can certainly help style your text and add flare but they tend to be harder to view than standard fonts such as Arial or Verdana. Besides, very few fonts work on all screens and with all browsers.

 

4) Force the lines to be shorter rather than longer.

The average screen resolution is set to 1024 which means a lot of text can be displayed on one line. However, the human eye has great difficulty following long lines of text on a screen. A line over 70 characters (optimal) causes the eye to wander (lose its place) thus making the reader tire faster. (These lines are around 70 characters wide).

 

5) Create more pages.

If possible, do not make your pages more than 500 words of text. If the text is longer, try to break it into more than one page and add appropriate navigation between those pages. Just as a magazine or book forces us to flip pages, so too a web-page can make the reader flip (click) to the next page. This is equally true of pages consisting of pictures. It is better to create shorter pages if possible.

 

6) Remember the 10 second usability rule.

Visitors tend to stay on a web page from between 10 to 30 seconds. As such, they want to know as much about what the content is as quickly as possible. Good headers with short, sharp descriptions should give your reader a good understanding of the page within the first 5 seconds.

 

7) 25% slower usability rule.

We read web pages about 25% slower than we read a sheet of paper. Much of this has to do with the above rules (white space, screen lighting, eye-stress and the fact that each web page has to be studied for some seconds to understand the content, navigation and so forth). Keep this in mind when designing the content. If the material is in-depth, give your visitor the option to print or download a copy.

 

8) Keep the navigation usable and consistent.

Both the navigation and the page design (skin) should be consistent and easy to comprehend. If your visitor can’t quickly figure out the page, they will leave in a hurry.

Okay, that was already 517 words so I will break the page here.


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