ABC’s of Usability

The common definition of usability refers to “the elegance and clarity with which the user interaction with a website or application is designed”. In other words, usability is the practice of designing websites or applications to be more effective, efficient and satisfying.

You might ask yourself why should I know this, wherever you stand in terms of production or foundation of your project, you should know that usability stands for one simple reason in terms of success “If a website, application, or blog is difficult to use, your target audience will run off you”. Therefore, as an Arab Entrepreneur you’d better know this to avoid failure and stand-out in the crowd.

Usability is classified into two elements: Readability and Accessibility. These two elements are discussed below, but we are going to elaborate more in several other posts as well:

1. Readability: It refers to the ease of reading the user-interface for your webpage or application. A few key principles will allow readability of your website or application by improving the following:

  • Use color contrast: Increase the contrast between the text font and the background. A low contrast will irritate the users and create eye-fatigue preventing them from reading the content.
  • Clean font and style: Use Sans-Serif fonts instead of Serif fonts. Sans-Serif fonts do not have the characteristic of small horizontal lines at the top unlike other fonts; therefore, try to avoid gluing-style fonts and smaller than 1 cm font size. If you don’t have online brand guidelines, always stick back to the brand guideline of the logo and font from the offline brand guideline.
  • Consumable-size content: Break-up the content into short, clear, and bit-sized paragraphs. Some users tend to scan-read online text which means that the context might be un-delivered in long paragraphs.
  • Avoid cluttered images: Offer the user a clear and simple picture of what your product and service is about, do not allow the user to day-dream in the picture or chase the frames to deliver the context.

2. Accessibility: It encloses the best practices and web standards that recommend the usage of the website or application which will ensure accessibility to all users including people with disabilities. Several researches showed that 20% of users have accessibility issues with the interface. Since the World Wide Web consortium has set-up the web accessibility initiative, we would advise you to review the accessibility guidelines that are located on www.w3.org/WAI/WCAG20/quickref/ or you can read the summary below:

  • Variety of text alternatives: Provide users the variety of text alternatives for any non-text content so that it can be changed into other forms people may need, such as large print, speech, symbols, tags, or simpler language.
  • Time-based media: Provide alternatives for audio and video content (for example text caption or tags).
  • Adaptable: Create content that can be presented in different ways (for example simpler layout) without losing information or structure.
  • Distinguishable: Make it easier for users to see and hear content, also separate foreground from background.
  • Keyboard accessible: Make all navigation and functionality available from the keyboard; don’t rely on the mouse only.
  • Enough time: Allow users enough time to read and use the content.
  • Seizures: Do not design content in a way that is known to cause seizures (e.g. WebPages should not contain anything that flashes more than 3 times per second).
  • Navigable: Provide ways to help users navigate, find content, and determine where they are.
  • Readable: Make text content readable and understandable.
  • Scalability: Make the interface appear and operate in predictable ways.
  • Input assistance: Help users avoid and correct mistakes. Never assume that a user will know their way around your website.
  • Compatible: Maximize compatibility with current and future technologies.

There are much more information on this subject to be written and to improve or bring out better usability websites in the Middle East, I advise you to say tuned and get the customable content for you which we are going to feed in several stages.

In my personal experience, when I go to www.w3.org and I feel I’m lost with the huge content and topics which I am curious to read about; I end-up saying “Oops” I read 3-half articles.

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Tarek is the founder and chief researcher at Youngberry, a youth research and marketing firm dedicated to the region. Tarek founded interactiveME.com and previously worked as Manager at Flip Media (Interactive Agency), Bayt.com (Job Site) and Consulting House Qatar (Consulting firm). He is researcher and writer on internet & disruptive innovation, entrepreneurship, and youth culture.

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