Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Website Usability Review

What is effective web design and usability?

The field of web design has become more important than ever in this world that has embraced the internet as a source of business and entertainment.  Whether a business is online-based or a brick and mortar, nearly all have online websites that advertise the company and their products or services.  Thus, knowing what constitutes good web design and usability can be immensely helpful in gaining a greater presence online.

The most important points in effective web design and usability are:
  1. Ease of navigation.
  2. Giving users the information instead of making them fish for it.
  3. Simplicity.
  4. White space.
  5. Organization.
  6. Minimal number of ads, and anything that looks like an ad.
  7. High quality content.
Good web designs

Newegg.com is an example of a website that has achieved good usability.  The navigation bar at the top, and the guided search on the left make it easy for users to find exactly what they need.  The product page displays the relevant info such as price, hardware specs, and user reviews.  Despite packing lots of information onto the webpage, it still feels uncluttered because it is organized into 4 distinct modules:  navigation bar (top), guided search bar (left), product reviews (right), and products (center).

DailyTech.com also achieves good usability.  Like Newegg.com, it has a navigation bar at the top, organizes content into sensible categories, and makes liberal use of white space.  The webpage feels simple, organized, and offers high quality content.

Bad web designs

StarAdvertiser.com is an example of a website that has not achieved good usability.  It violates the points of simplicity, white space, organization, and minimal ads.  The rightmost column could be mistaken for ads.  A visit to the site and a bit of scrolling down will reveal how cluttered and claustrophobic the webpage feels.  There is simply too much information jammed into a single webpage.

news.cnet.com also fails to achieve good usability.  Like StarAdvertiser.com, the rightmost column could be mistaken for ads.  Although the webpage is more usable than StarAdvertiser's, word density is still high and the webpage is littered with miscellaneous buttons everywhere.

Note: The websites above were viewed using the Chrome web browser and an extension called AdBlock Plus.

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