Users should not have to think too hard when they are using your website. They should not have to refer to help screens and they shouldn't be made to feel stupid. Simply by observing your customers you can avoid this.
Web designers and developers often forget that they are not typical users. Web coders have a far more extensive knowledge of the website they are developing than the average user is ever going to have. Website owners also forget that they are experts in their field and typically use jargon & assumptions that are alien to their customers. After working on a project for some time it is easy to forget that others are not so familiar with what you do, don't understand your terminology or don't follow your logic. There may be aspects of the website that seem obvious to you that might in fact be utterly confusing to your users. It is therefore important to take a step back from to time to time and make sure you don't leave your users behind.
Usability Testing is an essential aspect of any user-centred approach that puts the user, rather than the website, at the center of the development process. Adopting such an approach advocates that the user should be foremost in any design decisions.
According to the International Standards Organization (ISO)...
"Usability is the extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction in a specified context of use."
ISO 9241-11: Guidance on Usability (1998)
But why is it so important for web design and what will it do for your business?
An effective website...
- allows customers (users) to achieve their goals
- has a high conversion rate
- meets business objectives
- delivers a positive brand image
An efficient website...
- provides answers quickly
- follows a logical sequence
- doesn't waste resources
- requires less content management time
A satisfied user...
- achieves their goal
- enjoys their experience
- tells others
- comes back again