Usability Principles

Overview

Web pages should be easy to use and content understandable by the average user.  The purpose of usability is to design websites that allow visitors to the site to complete a task, solve a problem, express an opinion, or find an answer to a question quickly and easily. The purpose of the website should be self-evident to the user. Poor web page design leads to wasted time, reduced productivity, increased frustration, loss of confidence, inaccuracies, and loss of repeat visits.

In 2017, the CA Government Operations Agency introduced a few select leaders to user-centered design best practices at the local, state, and federal level through Californians Matter: A User Centered Design and Digital Services Showcase. This site shares the same message from the showcase and more to state entities that are working to revamp and build better digital services.

 

Usability.gov narrows down the following principles and resources to create a meaningful and valuable user experience:

 

Useful: Your content should be original and fulfill a need

Usable: Site must be easy to use

Desirable: Image, identity, brand, and other design elements are used to evoke emotion and appreciation

Findable: Content needs to be navigable and locatable onsite and offsite

Accessible: Content needs to be accessible to people with disabilities

Credible: Users must trust and believe what you tell them

Building the User Experience

Creating a successful user-centered design encompasses the principles of human-computer interaction (HCI) and goes further to include the multiple disciplines. The following can be explained in detail on usability.gov.

  • Project Management focuses on planning and organizing a project and its resources. This includes identifying and managing the lifecycle to be used, applying it to the user-centered design process, formulating the project team, and efficiently guiding the team through all phases until project completion.
  • User Research focuses on understanding user behaviors, needs, and motivations through observation techniques, task analysis, and other feedback methodologies.
  • Usability Evaluation focuses on how well users can learn and use a product to achieve their goals. It also refers to how satisfied users are with that process.
  • Information Architecture (IA) focuses on how information is organized, structured, and presented to users.
  • User Interface Design focuses on anticipating what users might need to do and ensuring that the interface has elements that are easy to access, understand, and use to facilitate those actions.
  • Interaction Design (IxD) focuses on creating engaging interactive systems with well thought out behaviors.
  • Visual Design focuses on ensuring an aesthetically pleasing interface that is in line with brand goals.
  • Content Strategy focuses on writing and curating useful content by planning the creation, delivery and governance behind it.
  • Accessibility focuses on how a disabled individual accesses or benefits from a site, system or application. Section 508 is the governing principal for accessibility.
  • Web Analytics focuses on the collection, reporting, and analysis of website data.

Implementing Usability

Usability is an important component throughout the lifecycle of a project. From planning through maintenance, usability principles must be applied to ensure a site is living up to its full potential. Thorough analysis of an existing site and consideration of the site’s goals, and understanding users and their needs are critical to kick-starting usability.

Engaging end users during the development process will help ensure that goals are being met, navigation and content are on track and development work can proceed.

The best way to ensure a site is usable is to conduct user testing with multiple users at all stages of the process. There are some checklists and exercises that can help verify a site’s usability, but nothing replaces real users.

Usability.gov

In addition to what is mentioned here, Usability.gov has more resources, tools, and best practices for you to leverage when building your services.

Join us in building the statewide web resource you expect and deserve.
We encourage your feedback and suggestions!