HEURISTICS AND SITE USABILITY
Heuristics applies to more than just the keywords that you use on your site. Heuristics also applies to web site usability, and a set of heuristic guidelines for site usability was first established by Jakob Nielsen in 1990. At the time, he developed a list of 10 items that when included in web site design would make a site more usable for individuals. In 1994, Nielsen updated that list of heuristics so that it now includes the following items:
■ Visibility of system status: This principle says that the user should always know what’s going on through feedback from the system that’s provided in a timely manner.
■ Match between the system and the real world: According to this, the system should speak the user’s language. This means that keywords, phrases, and concepts should be used in a natural language that is familiar to the user and not be just technical or marketing buzzwords.
■ User control and freedom: This principle says that users often mistakenly make choices they don’t really want. For that reason, it’s essential to offer the capability to undo or redo an action. A good example of this is having back and forward buttons in a web browser.
■ Consistency and standards: Each time users click a button or see a word, they should not have to wonder what that action or word means. Consistency and standards apply to both languages and actions, and should be predictable across the Internet.
■ Error prevention: Users are frustrated by errors, so you should design your site with the prevention of errors in mind. However, if you recognize a place where users might encounter an error, then using a confirmation system is recommended.
■ Recognition rather than recall: Don’t make users remember things from one screen or dialog to another. Instead, create your pages with clearly visible instructions, actions, and objects. If you must create an element that requires additional instructions, make those
instructions easy to access, and clearly mark them as instructions.
■ Flexibility and efficiency of use: This principle applies to both novice users and experienced users of your site. According to this rule, your site should apply to both groups of users by providing customizable actions.
■ Aesthetic and minimalist design: Remember the adage KISS (keep it simple, stupid)?
Well, your users may not be stupid, but they still want you to keep your site as simple
as possible. If your products, services, or information are complicated to locate, you’ll
lose site visitors very quickly. They’ll go to a site where it’s easy to find what they’re
■ Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors: Users want error messages that help them navigate through and correct an error as quickly as possible. Make sure that error messages aren’t cryptic, and provide clear, easy-to-follow instructions.
■ Help and documentation: It’s always best not to have to refer users to help and documentation files, but sometimes it can’t be avoided. If that’s the case for your site, be sure your help and documentation files are easy to navigate and written in a clear, understandable language.
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