Important Website Usability Standards to be Aware Of

Website usability standards encompass the best practices and principles behind the design, flow and navigation, compatibility and presentation of a website. UI (user interface) is a component of UX (user experience), but the two concepts overlap and are not mutually exclusive.

Usability and user experience are very crucial. Yet, designers and developers have a tendency to overlook it when the time for pre-launch tests comes around.

I’d like to go over a few of the standards that you should be aware of, even if your website is just a ‘personal hobby’. If you want your site to work, then it needs to be easy to use, easy to understand, and highly compatible.

Let’s jump right in, shall we?

#1 – Compatibility

Let’s cover the most technical aspect first: compatibility. There are two ways to approach this. At one time, compatibility was less of an issue; there were only a few issues to deal with. With few browsers and platforms, nobody really enforced W3C standards.

Now, you have a vast array of other platforms to deal with, such as: set top boxes, mobile platforms, game consoles, smart TVs (and probably some devices I’ve never even heard of, along with the classic PC and notebook platforms).  So, you have to design your site to work with all of these.

Design your page to work in a way where it complies to W3C standards – which means all browsers can read it. Design your layout so that it scales easily for various screen sizes and resolutions. This works well, but it’s a compromise – mobile users will still probably have to zoom and scroll around, but often, they’re willing to tolerate this if your site is useful.

#2 – Eye Tracking

I already wrote an entire piece on eye-tracking  (yup, it’s that important), so I must mention it. With eye tracking, it’s all about how the eye follows the elements of your page. Place your header at the top, your navigation bar beneath the header or to the left, and your content in the center.

Most people read the page in this manner (and even those users who live in different countries, with languages that do not read left-to-right, have come to expect websites to place their content is this specific way).

#3 – Minimal Refreshing and Reloading

This used to be unavoidable, but now, thanks to the existence of HTML5 and AJAX, designing pages with layers and regions is the norm.  Reloading the entire page for every navigation, search refinement or other content-affecting task is no longer necessary.

This reduces the time it takes to get things done or consume information. It avoids the disjointing effect of reloads. It also puts less strain on the server hosting the page. It allows for less robust bandwidth that users may have.  It’s also easier on the actual device, especially for mobile.

These website usability standards are adhered to by almost all professional designers, design firms, and by corporate websites. More and more, private users are taking website usability standards as a serious matter. These tips are just the starting point, stay tuned for more to come.

Rachel Quinn