Your 10 Rules To Follow To Ensure Usability

Everyone has their own way. I’ve been around many development environments and witnessed or experienced the blood, sweat and tears borne by the web development team. Sometimes it feels they get no support or respect.

Someone came to Cre8asiteforums, a community largely made up of search engine marketing practitioners, asking for Your 10 Rules To Follow To Ensure Usability.

I was wondering members’ views on what their 10 definite rules would be to ensure, or at least strive for, good usability. I’m not talking about Nielsen’s heuristics etc. I mean 10 (current and relevant) easy to follow, actionable points that the general developer could follow.

Because he asked for the non-heuristics side, not wanting a re-hash of the zillion lists you see around the Internet on “Top 10 Things to Do To Make Your Website Usable”, we were able to have a different kind of conversation. The responses ignored link colors and font sizes.

Examples:

Unless specifically directed otherwise I develop with the goal to have 100% functionality without having to rely on:

* CSS
* client-side scripting (JavaScript etc)
* plugins

Usability doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It’s not just your site’s usability. Users are comparing your site against the easiest sites they’ve used …even if they are not in your industry or developed by a much bigger company.

I took the liberty of having a little fun with it:

1. Ignore everything everybody ever told you about what you SHOULD do.

2. Start all over and work out the top business requirement for building it. Hold onto it for dear life. Make every function, every link, every sentence and every breath a page takes traceable back to the original business requirements. This will support you when stakeholders start begging and flirting with you about the cool things they hope you slip in there for them. Just Say No.

3. Decide who it is for and design it for them. Don’t pick the least common denominator. Understand your users and build it for them.

4. Show the mockups to everybody before you begin to code. Walk up to strangers. Ask them for feedback. They may not be your target visitor but they may use the web.

5. Test during the code phase. Regression test every time you add something new. That also means testing designs and functionality on browsers and mobile devices.

6. When you get to Alpha or Beta stage, run it through validation tests for standards and accessibility. Do this now, not later. Keep checking after every code freeze or “I think this page is done” moment.

7. Never ever put up moving things that cover up anything or keep moving without a way to stop it.

8. Put a way to contact you on the site, so you know what’s not working.

9. Do something with it. If you can’t finish a task, neither can anyone else. Accept that everybody will conduct that task differently than you do and how you coded it to function. Have a swig of beer, swallow your pride and polish it up.

10. Usability begins while the site is still in the womb, not after its born. Code as if you’re in labor. You are.

You’re welcome to visit and read the thread to see more responses, or join in and add your own.

Special thanks to Jim Hedger for his coverage of the recent hoopla on Usability and SEO.

9 thoughts on “Your 10 Rules To Follow To Ensure Usability

  1. And then Kim summoned all developers and said:

    Hear, O developers, the decrees and laws I declare in your hearing today. Learn them and be sure to follow them.

    These are the commandments the LORD proclaimed in a loud voice to your whole assembly there on the mountain from out of the fire, the cloud and the deep darkness; and he added nothing more. Then he wrote them on two stone tablets and gave them to me.

    (with apologies to Moses)

  2. Thank you Marcel! I’m happy you did. I followed your link, discovered your blog and enjoyed reading it. I’ve added it to my Favorite Usability and SEO sites page. Very nice to “meet” you :)

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  4. Yeah i code websites and I find that testing is better done during the process of coding as once your ‘finished’, you are over the website and do not want to do any more changes to it..

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