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Should web designers consider usability?

It is no secret that some web designers consider themselves visual sorcerers, conjuring masterpieces for the Web. Should they even bother about such a buzzword as website usability?

Why consider usability?

Sure, the primary goal of a web designer is to create an appealing visual layout. But is the layout compatible with the goal of a website? And what is the goal of a website?

How about a goal of a website is to let the visitors do whatever they need to do? How about letting them do or find what they want quickly and easily? "No, the goal of my website is to sell shoes (or anything else)", you may say. True. But would you benefit if your visitors find the shoes they want easily and quickly and make purchases easily (without abandoning their shopping carts)?

And where does website usability creep in here? It's fairly simple. The goal of website usability is exactly help website visitors do or find whatever they want to on a website, speedily and without difficulty. Notice how website usability sounds close to the website goals?

Another reason to take website usability into account for a designer is to increase his/her services quality heavily. By taking website usability into account a web designer is able to put his clients' websites among the top 5-10% sites of the web.

Other reasons to learn usability by a web designer are:

  • realize your potential by taking all aspects of your profession
  • build better websites for the people
  • improve the overall Web quality (some think it's important)
  • make websites that get more visitors and convert to more customers
  • have happier clients, who enjoy getting more visitors and customers
  • get more clients via referrals from happy clients
  • work with more happy people, almost exclusively with happy people, who you either have designer earlier for, or who have been referred by previous clients
  • enjoy your life by working with happy people
  • make your family, friends happy by being and living happy

Naturally, after deciding to take on usability (or not), one has to learn something about it.

What to consider?

Website usability is such a broad notion that is no easy matter to tell what to check and where. For instance, does primary navigation matter? How about secondary navigation? Does it matter how the website content is laid out? To cut the story short (hopefully), let's jot down a brief list of what one may consider in website design:

  • primary navigation - does it list all the top importance pages on a website? (usually the ones, introducing a site section)
  • secondary navigation - is it aimed to assist a website visitors with finding what he wants, but which is not listed in the primary navigation?
  • content structure - is it presented in a way that it easy to scan? (people usually quickly scan through the pages, not actually read them)
  • familiar interface - does your site has elements, similar to other websites? (a link to the homepage from a logo, top navigation is at the top of the page, privacy policy is at the bottom of the page, links are blue and underlined, etc)
  • consistent layout - is navigation consistent throughout the site? Are internal pages visually different from the homepage?
  • font size - is it too small? Or too large? Does it have fixed size and it's not possible to change its size in a browser?
  • website graphics - are graphics only used where absolutely necessary? What if there is text on graphics? Are there images, which don't play a significant role on a page?
  • use of Javascript - does top navigation use Javascript to function? Is Javascript used on other pages? How will the site behave if the Javascript is turned off?
  • page download speed - does the page load quickly? Is it because a huge amount of graphics, or the web server?
  • page fluidity - does the website adjust to user's screen size? Or the users have to adjust their browser views accordingly?
  • search engine friendliness - are links on the website in text? Can search engine spiders visit the links easily?
  • alt and title attributes - are there alt attributes present for the images or title attributes for both, images and links? Do they clearly state what is the image or link about or are used for keyword stuffing?
  • accessibility - can visually-impaired people surf around the site easily? Is the site compliant with the WAI guidelines?

Clearly, this list isn't complete. Some designers aren't responsible for their clients' servers, and can't tell what content the website needs to succeed. But the most part of website usability comes from the design, so it should be much appreciated if web designers consider at least some points from above when working for their clients.

When to consider?

Ideally, a web designer may consider website usability when thinking over the project. For instance, a designer may consider using minimum graphics from the start and avoid Javascript altogether. When thinking of a website layout, a designer needs to know the needs of website visitors to be able to provide all the necessary information as easily as possible through navigation. So perhaps thinking of a user-friendly web design prototype before-hand is the best way of designing websites.

Of course, chances are some designers may not be able to create usable designs from the start. Then web design sample adjustment will have to take place to ensure it meets the visitor needs.

Final word

So, back to the initial question. Should, after all, web designers take website usability into account? Of course, the author's intent was not to introduce doubt into web designer circles about whether or not to consider creating user-friendly websites, but to provide some insight into the question, so the answer is self-evident. But what is your take on the problem?

Liked the article? Read about whether web designers should know SEO.


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