How to : website (usability) basics, part 1

A colleague asked me about “technical website gimmicks, usability and navigation patterns”, for a medium size organisational/corporate website. I spent some time thinking what kind of information she is looking for.  (information on user interface design?)  As she is not working on web strategy, governance or measurement but on execution, I decided to pull some Jakob Nielsen ‘generic basics’ that might help her with layout improvements, usability and content development.

Sharing it here as well as this is useful/valid for all websites :

Photos as Web Content
Summary: Users pay close attention to photos and other images that contain relevant information but ignore fluffy pictures used to “jazz up” Web pages.

Microcontent: How to Write Headlines, Page Titles, and Subject Lines
Microcontent needs to be pearls of clarity: you get 40-60 characters to explain your macrocontent. Unless the title or subject make it absolutely clear what the page or email is about, users will never open it.

World’s Best Headlines: BBC News
Summary: Precise communication in a handful of words? The editors at BBC News achieve it every day, offering remarkable headline usability.

Show Numbers as Numerals When Writing for Online Readers
Summary: It’s better to use “23” than “twenty-three” to catch users’ eyes when they scan Web pages for facts, according to eyetracking data.

Use Old Words When Writing for Findability
Summary: Familiar words spring to mind when users create their search queries. If your writing favors made-up terms over legacy words, users won’t find your site.

Passive Voice Is Redeemed For Web Headings
Summary: Active voice is best for most Web content, but using passive voice can let you front-load important keywords in headings, blurbs, and lead sentences. This enhances scannability and thus SEO effectiveness.

Blah-Blah Text: Keep, Cut, or Kill?
Summary: Introductory text on Web pages is usually too long, so users skip it. But short intros can increase usability by explaining the remaining content’s purpose.

How Little Do Users Read?
Summary: On the average Web page, users have time to read at most 28% of the words during an average visit; 20% is more likely.

F-Shaped Pattern For Reading Web Content
Summary: Eyetracking visualizations show that users often read Web pages in an F-shaped pattern: two horizontal stripes followed by a vertical stripe.

I can mention Steve Krug and usability testing in part 2. For the rest, I’m still chewing on the gimmicks part. Surely content is king and not gimmicks…. To be continued.

(But why do I keep thinking about that recent article on organisational web strategy, governance, redesign and the brick wall?)

Author: webdesigner

Webdesigner at Studio JdH