Usability, from a Beginner’s Perspective

When a beginner sets to code a beautiful website (applies for mobile apps too) which he thought of in his mind, he generally places or designs the buttons, headings or dropdowns the way he has been used to, how he has experienced different website, or at positions or way he likes to see them. The question is whether that design is really usable? Will everyone like it just because you like it that way? Steve Krug in his book ‘Don’t Make Me Think’ defines usability as, If it is usable: A person of average (or even below average) ability and experience can figure out how to use the thing to accomplish something without it being more trouble than it’s worth.

There might be challenges or temptation as a coder/designer to use clever or witty names for somethings like buttons. For example, say you just setup a small website to sell Harry Potter merchandise, instead of putting a ‘Cart’ button you put ‘Basket’ button or a ‘Bag’ button, people who understand it will click, but people who won’t or who found it confusing will not buy because he lost confidence in your website and is now not ready to put money on it, that witty name just costed you a customer .So making things as simple as possible when you are developing your apps or web pages is of utmost importance. You just can’t afford to create mental noise in customer’s mind and make him eventually leave. As per Eric Ries everything that a customer interacts with is a product of the company, be it a telephonic conversation, a website, a mobile app, or even a person (customer service). It unconsciously forms an image of the company so when a user is not able to find something easily on the company’s website, it starts eroding the user’s confidence in site and the organisation behind it. Making every page or screen self-evident is like having good lighting in a store, you don’t look at every single item but when you are able to comfortably scan through all the items and find the right item, you have satisfaction and next time you’ll come to the same store again.

User’s attention is a resource, with so many distractions especially in this digital era(like facebook, instagram and snapchat)the attention span of an average person has just been decreasing. So any mobile app or web-app should make sure that once you’ve got your user’s attention you cannot lose that resource.

Users generally muddle their way through because that’s how it always have been. Remember the first time you played Road Rash, yeah, you didn’t go to settings and see what the controls were but you just played and figured it out after 5 crashes.That is exactly the way users use the website because they don’t want to weigh the options presented to them, they want to try it at the first go itself.User resorts to not the best choice but the first choice that satisfies his need.The question may rise that if they are anyway muddling their way through, is it necessary to make self-evident/self-explanatory page, the answer is muddling is generally error-prone, but if the user gets it at the first go, you have his attention and also you can steer them to parts of app/site where you want them to see. So the choices you present should be very unambiguous and distinct from each other .

There is one major thing common in launching a product and website design that is getting your hands dirty with actual testing. As soon as you have an MVP (Minimum viable product), you should get out there and test it, because generally what happens is that you put in a lot of a effort in features that no one is going to use. Testing is how you see the path of the product/website ahead. But you of all people are not the right candidate to test it and be satisfied with your work. After you’ve worked on a product/site for even a few weeks, you can’t see it freshly anymore. You know too much. The only way to find out if it really works is to watch other people try to use it. Testing reminds you that not everyone thinks the way you do, knows what you know, and uses the web/product the way you do.