Usability is perhaps the most commonly overlooked and/or misunderstood technique on the Internet. It is often overlooked as its dollar value is difficult to measure outside of potentially complex and expensive user testing.
These assumptions about user testing are most often inaccurate. User testing can be quite simple and inexpensive, and its value is tremendous. Users are happy when they can use your site, and unhappy when they can't. You don't want to drive users away, and if you can get them, you want to keep them.
Usability, in the context of the Internet, is essentially the science of applying common sense and a touch of psychology to interfaces and layouts. From creating obvious and sensible navigation, to laying out pages in an easily readable format, to placing common buttons in common locations, usability is an invaluable resource to tap.
How do we measure up?
The following elements of this website (apis.ca) had usability considerations:
- Navigation Bar
Our main navigation bar is located along the top, which is a common location where users will instinctively look for such a navigation tool
- Breadcrumb Navigation
We implement a 'breadcrumb' style navigation just below our main navigation bar at the top of each page. This shows visitors where they are in the hierarchy of our site, and allows them to back out, 1 level at a time
- Sub Navigation
Our second layer of navigation is located in a left-hand table, which is also a common place to see navigation
- Navigation Choices
Not only do we provide visitors to this site with some consistent navigation elements, but we offer a Site Map as well as a Search feature, should they choose to browse our site that way.
- Consistent Colour Usage
We consistently use the same colours throughout our site to reinforce our brand and provide consistency.
- Layout Consistency
The layout of our pages is very consistent. From the logo area up top, to the main navigation buttons, highlight table, and 'Next' link at the bottom of each page.
Our site is designed to convey information to visitors in a speedy, easy to understand, easy to read manner. Thusly, you will not see fancy Flash animations or dancing kittens; just a simple, elegant design with text that is communicated in a direct and memorable fashion.