Summary: Why is usability so important? Without it, your application will get abandoned. All of the time and effort put into that application will be for nothing. In this article, you’ll learn a few usability trends you must adopt in your web application development over the coming months.
In his book, “The Tipping Point,” Malcolm Gladwell explains how it’s often the little things that make the biggest difference. We might assume that big results come from big changes, but that’s not always the case.
I think the same holds true for web application usability. Sometimes it’s the small UI elements that make the biggest impact. If your web applications frustrate or confuse users, or if you just want to improve usability, you might just need a few small changes.
Today, let’s take a closer look at web application usability–specifically focusing on those small user interface elements or concepts that make a big difference. I’ve compiled 7 simple ways to improve your web application’s usability, without performing a major overhaul.
No web developer wants to create a bad user experience. Nobody sets out to make a confusing and frustrating interface that drives users away. But, the sad truth is…this happens far too often.
According to the online marketing institute, the problems caused by a poorly designed interface are substantial. The numbers indicate that:
- 85% of users abandon a site due to poor design
- 83% of users leave because it takes too many clicks to get what they want
- 62% of users gave up looking for an item while shopping online
- 40% of users never return to a site because the content was hard to use
- 50% of sales are lost because visitors can’t find content
The fact is, usability is becoming an essential aspect of web application development. User expectations have changed. Modern end users expect to pick up a web app and understand how it works. Confusing interfaces will only frustrate users and drive them away.
However, many developers build applications which do just that. They unwittingly make development mistakes that hurt their web application’s usability. In doing so, they accidentally alienate their users.
What are these mistakes? In what ways do developers accidentally create interfaces that frustrate their users? We posed those questions to a few experts in the area of usability, and have compiled their feedback below. Here are 7 development mistakes that kill web application usability:
IT departments are often frustrated by poor application adoption. They spend months building applications for their end users, only to see low adoption rates upon completion. The very users that begged the IT department for the application don’t use it once it’s built.
Why? What causes low user adoption? What makes users dislike an application that they themselves begged the IT department to deliver?
While there’s no single answer, user adoption problems typically stem from several common mistakes. Which mistakes? We posed this question to a few experts and have included their advice (along with some actionable takeaways) below. User adoption problems usually occur when developers…
You’ve heard the saying, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” It’s good advice, but largely ignored. Whether consciously or subconsciously, we pass judgements based on appearance on a daily basis.
This fact is especially important in business. Studies have shown that people judge a web page/app in less than one second. What does that mean? If you’re building apps for customers or prospects, appearance can affect revenue. If you’re building for internal users, it can affect usability.
Don’t get me wrong–I’m not telling you to focus solely on appearance. I’m telling you not to ignore appearance, because like it or not, an app is judged by it’s appearance first, and usefulness second.
How can you improve your application’s appearance? There are a few ways, but one of the best and easiest way is the navigation menu. A well-designed navigation menu will improve the overall look and feel as well as the usability of the web app. If you’d like to learn a simple way to create a good-looking navigation menu using CSS, we’ve written up a tutorial, which you can find here.
For more tips on usability, this article gives a few more ideas.
Here’s a common problem: A developer builds what they believe to be the “perfect” web application. It meets all of the user requirements, and even includes extra features that weren’t required. It will save the users all sorts of time. It’s exactly what they wanted.
But, then something unexpected happens: Very few users actually use it.
For many developers, this is a common problem. It’s frustrating and doesn’t make sense. In their minds, everything was done correctly. It meets all of the requirements and it’s powerful. So, why don’t people use it?
Last month, Google announced Google Instant, which automatically pulls up search results as you’re typing. They claim Google Instant will save about 2-5 seconds per search. Doesn’t seem like much? It equates to roughly 350 million hours of saved time per year.
One small efficiency improvement, when spread over many users, can lead to massive time savings. The same is true for your business applications. How much time would your company save if your business applications were more efficient? Probably much more than you think.
A successful IT project is one that is delivered on time, at or under budget, and working as originally planned. According to the Standish group, only 32% of IT projects are considered successful. Believe it or not, that’s an improvement over years past.
Why are most IT projects unsuccessful? I found a nice article entitled “Why IT projects fail” which lists 6 of the most important reasons for failure. I couldn’t agree more with the first point: Lack of user involvement. If your project will be used at all by end users, they must be involved early on. After all, a new system or application that end users can’t (or don’t want to) use is a waste of money.
Forbes.com has some interesting things to say on this subject.
Is it your job to make sure your end users can use new software or systems? Or, do you find the best solution for your company and hope the end users catch on?
It’s a tricky question, because while you can’t please every single end user, you must find solutions that they can and will use. You must find solutions that are easy for the technical and non-technical employees to pick up.
All that technology we’ve brought into our lives and into the workplace increases productivity, right? Yes and no. If used correctly, the answer is yes. If not, technology has the ability to actually hurt productivity.
I recently read a great article on Computerworld entitled, “Office tech: Productivity boost or time drain?” It’s an interesting read, and may make you think twice about multi-tasking.