When it comes to web usability, we subscribe to the concept presented by web usability expert Jakob Nielsen on the essentials in successful web sites. In his book, Designing Web Usability: The Practice of Simplicity, his concept is summed up in the acronym HOME RUN. Users look for High quality content, that is Often updated, with Minimal download time, Easy to Use, is Relevant to the users needs, Unique to the to online world, and Net-centric to corporate culture. For the purpose of this article we will concentrate on the HOME portion of the acronym.
High quality content
“Research has shown that web users generally prefer writing that is concise, easy to scan, and objective (rather than promotional) in style. We incorporated these and other attributes into a redesign of web content. Doing so required trade-offs and some hard decisions, but the results were positive. The rewritten website scored 159 percent higher than the original in measured usability. Compared with original-site users, users of the rewritten site reported higher subjective satisfaction and performed better in terms of task time, task errors, and memory.” In Applying Writing Guidelines to Web Pages - by John Morkes and Jakob Nielsen, it is established that well written content is high quality content. Make sure your website is loaded with high quality content.
The reason news sites are visited frequently is because they always have something new to offer. Because there is not as much information to disseminate on company web sites as news sites, releasing new and compelling content is the best way to keep people coming back to your site. Whould you return to your favorite news site if it didn't update regularly?
Minimal download time
Your web site needs to load in the minimum amount of time. In the past, the average attention span of a web user was eight seconds. If they could not load a website in that time, users were very likely to leave that site. Try to keep your home page and individual pages under 100 KB. Around 50% of home users have a high speed connection. Hence, attention spans are getting shorter. You only have a few moments to get a point across to users. Make sure the information is at their fingertips.
Ease of use
The more information you can provide the user, the better, right? Not necessarily. Your principle tool for organizing information and making it accessible is your navigation or menu bar. I recommend keeping navigation items organized either horizontally along the top of the page or vertically along the left hand side. Make sure the information and navigation follows a logical progression. Your navigation needs to make sense to the user.
One of your top priorities on any web site is to keep navigation consistent and above the fold. Some people might ask, “Above the fold?!?!” This phrase comes from our friends in the newspaper business. If a newspaper is folded in half, the most important headlines and articles are found on the top half. The same is true on the web. In the case of the web, “above the fold” is the all information that appears in a user’s browser without needing to scroll down.
Make your web site easier to use by following the HOME RUN acronym. It is the easiest way anyone can make their web site more attractive online.
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