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The web and Usability also known as User Friendliness

According to usability is the term used to denote the ease with which people can employ a particular tool or other human-made object in order to achieve a particular goal. Usability can also refer to the methods of measuring usability and the study of the principles behind an object's perceived efficiency or elegance.

They also state the following sentence:

In human-computer interaction and computer science, usability usually refers to the elegance and clarity with which the interaction with a computer program or a web site is designed.

So why should you consider usability issues for your new website?

The main advantages of a user friendly site:

  • More efficient to use — it takes less time to accomplish a particular task
  • Easier to learn — operation can be learned by observing the object
  • More satisfying to use
  • Usability often goes hand in hand with a search engine friendly site

Before a site can be deemed as user friendly, it should pass the following minimum requirements:

Disabled friendly

  1. disabled users often uses only the keyboard, therefore there should be keyboard shortcuts assigned to all your menu items - the accesskey attribute is used for this.
  2. user defined stylesheets - particularly users with poor sight can have their own stylesheets that override your website stylesheets to enhance visibility of certain features. This is only possible with a CSS based website and not at all with a table driven layout.
  3. screen readers - blind users often makes use of screen readers that read out the content of a site - you should therefore ensure that your developer use the correct tags for the correct content, once again tables should not be used for anything other than tabular data.

Cross Browser Compatibility

  1. People are different and therefore have different preferences even when it comes to browsing the web. Your website shouldn't be limited to a specific browser such as Internet Explorer, be sure to test your site in many different browsers.
  2. Does your website have a text only representation? It should, to test this, download firefox and go to View->Page Style and choose None... if the site doesn't display correctly, you better know it won't print correctly and search engines won't be able to index it optimally.

Platform Independance

Does your site display correctly on a mobile phone? soon mobile phones will overtake computers as the number one medium used to browse the web with - it is almost already the case in countries such as Japan where technology is at the forefront. A user friendly site should be usable on a mobile phone.

To conclude this article I leave you with another quote from on usability:

Usability is now recognized as an important software quality attribute, earning its place among more traditional attributes such as performance and robustness.