Frequently Asked Questions
on Web Usability
What exactly is "usability" of a Web site?
Usability of a Web site is an extent to which a web site or web
application can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals
with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction in a specified context
of use". It is a measurable characteristic, that is present
to a greater or lesser degree, that describes how effectively a user can
interact with a Web site.
Although it is inherently multidimensional, major elements of it are:
- Effectiveness: The "accuracy and completeness with which
users achieve specified goals".
- Efficiency: The "resources expended in relation to the
accuracy and completeness with which users achieve goals".
- Satisfaction: The "freedom of discomfort, and positive
attitude to the use of the Web site".
What fields is usability related to?
- Software engineering
- Cognitive psychology
- Experimental psychology
- Systems engineering
- Human factors
- Layout and design
Why is usability important?
Usability engineering has proved that web sites of the principles
of design have high payoffs :
- Reduced production costs: the overall development
times and costs can be reduced by avoiding over design and reducing
the number of changes required late in design.
- Reduced support costs: Web sites which have quality
and is easier to use benefits free publicity from satisfied and retains
brand loyalty. Usability engineering helps meeting deadlines easy. User
support and subsequent maintenance becomes cheaper.
- Reduced costs in use: Web sites better matched to
user needs improve productivity and the quality of actions and decisions.
Easier to use web sites reduce stress and enable users to handle a wider
variety of tasks. Difficult to use Web sites are time consuming
to use, and are not exploited to full advantage, as the user may be
discouraged from using advanced features. In some circumstances,
they may never be used. An ineffective web site may be a major
financial liability for the your organization.
- Improved branding: usage-centred design results in
web sites which have a higher quality of use. In today's competitive
web market only an easier to use quality web site retain customers.
At what stage of Web life cycle should I consider
should be considered at every
stage of a Web life cycle, just before, after or during
launch. This often makes sense as the back-end, content and visual design
have all come together in a usable way.
- Before you start you project it is very essential to have an idea
about the characteristics of your users and which features of the product
these users would need.
- Starting early with these considerations safes money and time, because
the later implementation of new features or a new user interface means
a lot of additional effort.
- Even if your Web site is staged already you should ask your users
for their needs and their attitude to your Web site.
- Early testing can save development budget by uncovering usability
issues before they're deeply embedded. (Every bug is less expensive
the earlier it is found!).
Why should we out source instead
of testing in-house?
Objectivity. When you work on and develop a project, you often can't see
or find obvious bugs, omissions and errors. Professional testers ramp
up and become familiar with a Web site while they're testing so they have
a fresh view of the application and elements and interface.
Why not rely on developers
to test their own pages and elements?
Again, objectivity, and cross-platform-friendliness. Developers typically
develop and test on the same platform while they are working. They also
see the same page or element a billion times so if you put it in front
of their face with a typo on the third line or an incorrect calculation
they could easily miss it.
What is the difference
between a usability problem and a bug?
Usability problem: Part of the web design which is hard
for a user to understand, will impede the effective use and negatively
affect the product.
Bug: A portion of the Web site which does not work as the designers
and programmers intended or which is clearly broken.
Is it hard to find usability
Usability problems are often very hard to spot, even for professionals
with years of experience. This is true for a number of reasons:
- It is really hard to think like a novice when you're an expert.
- You often don't have the domain knowledge of your customer.
- You become biased toward certain designs as you invest time and energy
- Predicting human behavior is something even psychologists can't reliably
How is usability different
Developers rely on QA to test their code, report bugs, and verify
bug fixes. Very hip QA people also report potential usability problems
to the usability team.
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Contact us now for a FREE
Basic Web Site Usability Review, to get a feel of our web
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