3 Steps to a Website so Usable, Your Mother Could Use It!

It’s Mother’s Day.

(Did you forget again?)

Mother’s Day is approaching once again, and most of us, it’s fair to say, have a lot to be thankful for when it comes to our mothers. Not only did our moms guide us through the earliest stages of life, there are so many things that they can do like no one else.

That said, there are a few things moms are notorious for not being so good at- and navigating the web is one of them.

We’ve all held the phone to our ear as a confused mother-in-law tries to figure out how that online order went missing, or which button she was supposed to click on to get to that site.

This article will help you make those concerns a thing of the past.

Here are three usability tips to make your website so simple and straightforward, even your mom could use it!

#1. Make it Easy to Sign Up and Sign In

Gartner notes that,

“Enterprises too often associate usability and user experience (UX) work as a nice-to-have aesthetic rather than an important business value generator. As a result, poor usability undermines business results with external and internal stakeholders.”

It’s your task to turn this around.

If your website encourages its readers to become members, it’s crucial that you make the sign-up and sign-in process as smooth and seamless as possible. Remember, the smallest glitch or delay might make time-pressed web users decide not to bother.

Include the sign-up form for new members right on the home page so that users who are new to the site can see how easy it is to sign up. Allow users to provide their email addresses as login IDs so they’ll be able to remember them when they return to the site.

Include labels inside the boxes rather than outside them, and thereby avoid adding clutter to your web page. Avoid using captchas if possible, as these can be tiresome and sometimes difficult to read. Finally, let users know as soon as possible when they’ve made a mistake in entering data. You don’t want them to have to refill the whole web form because of a simple typo.

#2. Remove Unnecessary Content

Gartner reports that a common UX misconception is that,

“The “prettier” the UI, the easier it is to use.”

Many websites are replete with data, text, and images that do little besides making readers more confused. To keep sites as clean-looking as possible, you might want to include modal windows, which pop up within the site instead of in a new browser window. This keeps users from having several tabs or windows open simultaneously.

Adding hover controls to make icons appear only when the mouse hovers over them will also give your site a cleaner, simpler look.

Another option you might want to implement is expanding forms, which adjust in size as necessary rather than displaying all data options from the outset.

This will keep your website and its entry forms from appearing too imposing, especially to first-time users or those who aren’t particularly web-savvy.

#3. Aim for Intuitive Navigation

In making your website easy to navigate, it’s important to think in terms of visuals and spacing rather than solely in terms of text.

Lots of words all over a website can be intimidating. Where possible, replace text with easy-to-understand icons. Make these icons and buttons large and well-placed so that your users can’t miss them. In addition, look carefully at the text you do have: sometimes verbal labels and designations only tell users what they already instinctively know.

On more complex websites, it might be a good idea to use a context-based approach rather than making everything feasible from the main page. While this will require users to navigate to different parts of the site to accomplish different tasks, it will increase your main page’s usability.

If you’re designing a mobile app, simplicity is even more important. Given that you’re working with a smaller screen size and a less powerful processor, you’ll need to design a version of the site with no unnecessary images or data in order to minimize page load time. As well, keep lines of text short and punchy; use well-placed links to direct users to more specific content; and avoid horizontal scrolling and pop-up windows at all costs.

The Big Picture

It’s best to do some “big picture” thinking about your website as you begin enhancing its usability.

Ask yourself this: what basic task (or main tasks) are people trying to achieve when they visit your site? Then look for apparent impediments to their ability to achieve these tasks – visual, textual, or otherwise.

To test whether you’ve succeeded in improving your site’s usability, Paul Kennedy at CleanLink offers this great idea: Ask someone unfamiliar with the site to complete a specific task on it, and see how they do.

And who better to ask than your mother?

You might even want to ask the favor of her on Mother’s Day! Just make sure to give her a bouquet of flowers first. If she succeeds in the online task you set for her, chances are, your website will succeed too.


Jessica is the Lead Author & Editor of UsabilityLab Blog. Jessica writes for the UsabilityLab blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to usability.