Like most elements of the web, be it SEO, design or programming, the realm of usability is ever evolving. Trying to develop a site in a landscape of ever-evolving means of web consumption (smart phones, tablets, etc.) means developers have to be tuned into their clients, end users, and the latest in technology. This, of course, is no small feat. As we begin 2013 we felt it would be worthwhile to speak to some professionals who have to stay on the forefront of usability and get their opinions on what’s important, how they stay up to date and resources they use.
Creating a great user experience requires an approach that takes several factors into consideration. First there are design best practices that should be followed. Typography and spacing should be used to ensure content is easily discoverable and digestible by the end user. Colors should be chosen that work well together and draw the eye to important content.
The second factor to be considered when creating a great user interface is the target demographic. This helps shape how the interface should present interactive elements to the user. For example, if the targeted user is more technically inclined then an interface may be designed that gives more options but is not as immediately discoverable.
The final factor that needs to be considered is simplifying and streamlining the interface. The feature set for a web site or application should be fully fleshed out before the interface is even considered. Only when the feature set is complete should the interactive components of the interface be designed. Once the initial design has been completed, common scenarios should be played out using the mock-ups and the interface should be updated to streamline common work flows.
Great interface design is an art form that must be constantly practiced and refined. As technology moves forward, users are being presented with new interface concepts and methods of interaction and it's our job as designers to figure out the most effective method to present content on a given platform for the target audience.
Project Manager | Lead Developer
The impact of mobile has changed the Internet and many of us use our phones to connect. The need for all websites (I mean all websites) to have a mobile site is crucial. Notice I did not say a mobile-version. The trend now for developers is to make a down-sized version of their main site while deactivating important features. Web development should begin with best usability implementations on the phone size screens first and work themselves up from there.
Luke Wroblewski’s writings have been a great help in understanding how important each element is on a website. For example a sign in form should not be such a hassle to design, but when you really think about mobile design, the rise of questions begin. Should the password box need to be password protected input type? The user can't see what they are typing from their phone which enables more login failures and turns off users. If the username is an email, does the input box include an email-type attribute (which enables an email keyboard)? If the user doesn't need to switch keyboards to get to the @ symbol, it would make your site that much easier to use. Also couldn't we implement such features to all screen sizes and not just the small ones? I believe so, and hope in 2013 most web developers can change their development process.
Rudy Macias, Technical Director, Sweb Development
Website usability is more important than ever as mobile/handheld responsive design and html5 come into play this year.
The days when you could rely on a desktop site to promote your business are over.
Your website visitors may be viewing your site on a wide variety of handheld devices ranging in size from 320 pixel phones to tablets to 1980 pixel (and bigger) desktop screens.
On smaller devices, pinching, pushing, and annoying horizontal scrolling create frustration, confusion and click outs.
With 40% of web users browsing almost exclusively on handheld devices and that number will only increase over time your business can't afford not to deploy a responsive design.
The good news is, you don't need to have a separate website for each device thanks to html5, media queries and an effort by device manufacturers to implement standards-compliant behaviors in their browser implementations.
But that also makes it even more important to employ tested direct response copy and design.
For instance, if you know white text on black background depresses response on the desktop version of your site (and it always does), it will only be worse if prospects view your site on a mobile device.
It's also important to write a great headline and lead that sit above the fold on a device with a usable height of around 460 pixels.
Copy can be sized using em units or percentages (rather than fixed units like pixels or points) to keep it readable across device platforms.
Responsive navigation is crucial. A button or bottom navigation should be used for devices less than 768 pixels. Use media queries to make the navigation appear normally for devices larger than 768 pixels.
Images should employ percent widths and automatic height adjustment so they shrink to fit smaller screens and expand for larger screens.
Always design for the smallest device first. Then use media queries to make design changes for larger devices.
Now, more than ever, it's important for copywriters and designers to test their websites on multiple devices to ensure they can be used by readers across platforms.
I get a lot of great information from the Direct Marketing Association, Target Marketing Magazine, Website Magazine, ReelSeo (I do a lot of web video as well), ClickZ Experts and a huge number of other industry sources. I get the best information from test, test, and test again!
Michael Fiala is a direct response copywriter, web video scriptwriter and internet marketing consultant specializing in internet advertising at http://InternetMarketingAndCreative.com
I truly believe that simplicity is under-rated. Like DaVinci said; Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. Clean lines, lots of whitespace and including only the most absolutely necessary elements is a best practice that works in any age, with any technology, for all users.
For web design news I prefer listening to clients in opposed to following specific news outlets. Simply asking them what they like and where they saw items that work well can keep you up to date with the best that is out there without having to spend resources looking for it yourself. For more subtle techniques that clients may not know that they like or dislike, I have a strong preference for actual user data that you can obtain from various analytics packages, surveys, and heat maps.
Owner, Charlotte Web Development