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1. Please define exactly what web usability is and why it matters.
Why it matters is relatively obvious. Because of the speed and convenience inherent in the Internet, if a Web site doesn't meet a user's functionality expectations (in other words: if it is not navigationally intuitive), users will abandon the ship in search of smoother sailing on some other site. If users can't find it on your site, they will try somewhere else. Our goal is to make the path from Point A to Point B as logical and tangible as we can.
2. What makes a poor site poor and a clean site clean? Can you give examples?
More often than not, however, sites that are commonly considered "poor" have problems that begin on the home page. You may see an overwhelming amount of disorganized text, or a series of misleading and mislabeled links. Whether they're selling CDs or offering information it is often obvious that the focus is NOT on the user's experience, but rather on the goals of the company.
Pages are crammed with flashing banner ads, slow-loading pictures, and navigation paths that leave visitors stranded all in an attempt to hard sell. It seems that some dot-coms are of the opinion that building a strong, trusting relationship with their customers is not as important as it would be for a brick and mortar.
3. Clicking to another site is easy; what happens when a web user can't find what she wants?
4. What's the attention span for online users? How long are they willing to try to find what they're looking for?
Long answer: Generally speaking, there are some trends in how long a typical Internet user is willing to wait, or how much time they will spend at any one site searching for a product, service or information. The site's usability and functionality along with several other factors largely impact this attention span.What is going on in their environment:
5. As more and more non-English speaking users are logging-on the web, how can web designers make sites easy to understand for a global audience?
6. What are some of the pros and cons of the different approaches (e.g., centralized vs. decentralized production of multilingual content, translation of English content vs. creating original target-language content)?
In our opinion, if an e-business is truly targeting foreign markets, creating original target-language content is critical. It may require additional expense but the return will be significantly greater.
7. What kind of problems can you envision when creating a user-friendly site in, say, 8 languages?
A good conceptual starting point would be to approach the design as if it were intended for children. By that I mean to keep it conceptually simple, make navigation straightforward and eliminate guesswork. Also include something shiny :-)
8. What are some of the "cardinal sins" of web usability?
Users also experience discomfort when presented with flashing text and graphics. It portrays an unprofessional image. Some users associate these sorts of text and graphics to the not-so-lucky side of Las Vegas. Also, users notice how well everything fits on a given page. If there is a great deal of unused real estate or an over abundance of scrolling it is a definite turn-off and in some cases it is a "show-stopper."
9. How exactly do you measure site usability? Do you conduct focus groups or do you have proprietary software?
10. Many critics say that people really go to the web for information, and it's getting harder and harder to find exactly what one is looking for. What simple steps can a web designer take to help people find their way?
A site that we tested recently illustrates this point well. Nearly every division of a company wanted space on the home page, and as a result it was a cluttered, nearly indecipherable mess. After testing, it was determined that the best course of action was to employ this concierge concept. The new start page essentially asked visitors, "Who are you, and what are you looking for?" So if you came to the site intending to purchase something, you would click on the large "Buy product" link as opposed to reading through close to one hundred small links and hoping you were clicking the right one. This seems simple enough, but again it was a case of the company putting their needs ahead of their target market.
11. How can a site designer break tradition (i.e., nav bar on the left-hand side) and still maintain site usability?
12. Do visitors actually use "site maps" or are site maps evidence of a poorly designed site?
Scott Kincaid is the Director of Usability Services at Usability Sciences. He works with USC customers to understand their research needs and determine the best method of achieving their desired results. Scott can be reached at email@example.com.
Scott Smith, MA, is a usability consultant at Usability Sciences specializing in human factors, and is directly involved in research, user testing, data analysis and reporting findings to clients of USC. Scott can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Usability Sciences is on the web at www.usabilitysciences.com.
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