What Good Website Usability Looks Like: Think “Glance” and “Scan”

by Karen J. Marchetti

Well-known website usability expert Steve Krug (Don’t Make Me Think) advises to “make everything obvious and self-explanatory”. What’s his definition of “self-explanatory”: ANYONE on any page can tell what it is and how to use it, just by looking at it.

Visitors Won’t Stick Around to “Learn How a Website Works”

His thousands of usability studies (conducted by sitting with individual web surfers, watching their actions, and asking them to “think out loud”) have led him to conclude:

1.Visitors want to be able to figure out your web site at a GLANCE.

2.They want to be able to SCAN to find what they’re looking for. (If you’re using pull-down menus as part of your web navigation, they’re not visible to the scanning visitor.  So your Main Menu topics need to be clear to visitors “at a glance” what they’ll find in that section.)

Website Usability Principles

Krug’s key principles of website usability include:

  • “Persistent navigation”: same place, every page
  • Design for scan-ability (other researchers like Jakob Nielsen have also found that 85% – 90% of visitors scan a web page first)
  • Create a clear visual hierarchy — to tell visitors what’s most important
  • Make your links obvious so visitors can’t miss them (studies have found that blue works best for links)
  •  “Above the fold” copy should be the most important copy on the page.  (Be sure not to bury key messages — only a small portion of visitors ever scroll down to the end of each page.)

Design Comes Before Copy in Creating Websites

Krug points out that web pages should be “design-driven”. You should figure out where you want the major items in terms of layout, and then write copy to fit the layout.