Web Design Usability Best Practices

Web design usability is a very unique topic compared to other contexts within the field. Given the increasing migration to SaaS for a lot of professional solution, it’s going to become absolutely paramount that everyone learns to handle usability properly. Web design usability is in a classification apart from traditional software, mobile apps and other design and usability practice sets, for a variety of reason. As a result, there’s a unique-to-the-field set of best practices to follow when going for web design.


This set has changed over time and will change further over more time as web technology standards, capacities and functionality standardize and improve. So, what are the current best practices for usability in web designs? Well, if we zoom in to too high of a resolution, there are a billion points to cover over endless minutia. We’re not going to do that here. I’m going to point out the three biggest, best practices for usability in this field, because if you’re going to walk away with limited knowledge of the subject, I want that limited knowledge to be as useful as possible in general application.

#1 – Mobile Version
Having become recently acquainted with the world of Android use via smartphone and using the heck out of its WiFi functionality, I can confidently say that a traditional page, even a slick and scalable one, is pretty annoying to use in a mobile environment. If you have to scroll left to right in the page, then the usability of this design from a mobile angle is poor, to say the least. Mobile can’t help it. There’s a tiny bit of screen real estate, crowded with the token OS pieces like taskbars, menus, and tabs, which means that even less area is available for content.

While most mobile browsers render pages fine, the need to zoom in and scroll around on both axes makes the experience feel off. Thankfully, most professional sites offer a mobile version of their site. It is laid out very much like a mobile app, using proper magnification and content delivery, but accounting for limited screen real estate. For a good example of this, look at GetApp’s mobile version, which pretty much personifies mobile conversion without loss.

#2 – Avoid Back Navigation
Back navigation is a hindrance to positive usability in websites, because progress of scrolling, entered content or search refinements are usually lost, or add time to the reload to reapply. This is easily thwarted by using AJAX layers and proper infinite scrolling to render links.

#3 – Allowing Keyboard Input
This has become convenient, especially for content delivery systems, to allow the left and right, or up and down keys on the keyboard to provoke a “next” or “previous” in serial content item collections. Image and video galleries are taking to the use of this. The more I see it and the more everyone else does, the more highly regarded this simple but convenient feature is. I encourage this, as usability is often aided by key presses versus dragging a hunk of plastic across a table to click buttons. Web design usability is a little different, as you can see, making certain things obvious in other fields rather valued and sought after here.

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Rachel Quinn