A 1,000 Foot View of Website Usability Studies
The web is constantly changing. Businesses are finding new ways to leverage the Internet, users are accessing content from more devices than ever before, and we are all spending much more time online. With all of these changes, it is natural for industry best practices to change as well. Usability studies help professionals keep on top of these changes, as well as to identify truths about web content that remain constant over time.
Here at Legit Click Media, we constantly survey the latest website usability studies so that we can help our clients perfect their web presences. These surveys have helped us identify some general principles about web content that we enjoy passing on.
Simple Is Best
When it comes to website content, usability studies show that users are deterred by large, dense blocks of text and multiple, competing graphics. The most effective sites are ones that allow for whitespace.
Interestingly, studies have shown that users read content without whitespace around it faster than content with whitespace. However, the studies show that readers’ comprehension of that content is less. If you want people to understand what you’re saying, use whitespace. Keep content as simple as possible with short paragraphs and clear headers.
“Below the Scroll” Is (Kind of) a Myth
The idea of being “above the fold” first came from newspapers. In the print world, the headlines that appeared on the top half of the front page were the ones most visible when the newspaper was folded on the rack. Headlines positioned above the fold were what motivated people to buy papers.
When digital became popular, many website usability researchers (most prominently Jakob Nielsen) advised that it was critical for businesses to put important information “above the scroll.” They argued that website users would only review content that they could see on their screens.
While usability studies show that website users know to scroll in order to find key information, those studies also show that they only do so if the content follows other usability best practices and the site gives users a good reason to keep scrolling.
Keep Mobile Devices in Mind
More people than ever before rely on their mobile devices for access to the Internet, studies show. Smartphone and tablet use has significantly increased, and the vast majority of Internet users switch between multiple devices on a daily basis.
What does this mean for businesses? It means that you must consider the mobile user when creating content. Choose designs with quick load times that do not deter mobile users. Select responsive designs that conform to the parameters of the device being used. Create contact forms that can be used easily—even when entering the information on a smartphone.
Of course, these principles are likely to change as the internet continues to evolve. It is likely that website usability studies will reveal more insights, and best practices will evolve to keep sites cutting edge. The best way to keep on top of the latest information is to talk with a website professional. You are welcome to call us any time!