Usability Principles and Techniques
What It Is
Following basic usability principles and techniques is a best practice in managing your agency's website. Web Usability is the measure of the quality of a customer's experience when they interact with your website. See Usability.gov for a complete definition.
- Information architecture (IA) is how you organize the content and navigation on your site.
- Usability testing is the best way to find out what is or isn't working on your site.
- Return on investment (ROI) and managing risk help you make the case for good user experience to your agency management.
Why It's Important
Customers cannot find what they're looking for on Web sites about 60 percent of the time, according to recent research. This leads to wasted time, increased frustration, and loss of visitors and trust. See the Usability.gov website for more research on why usability is important.
OMB Policies for Federal Public Websites require agencies to (#1A) "to disseminate information to the public in a timely, equitable, efficient and appropriate manner" and (#2A) "maximize the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of information and services provided to the public." By following usability principles, you'll create websites that ensure your users can find what they're looking for and are satisfied with their experience.
How to Implement
- Focus on Top Tasks
- Conduct Usability Tests
- Use Consistent Navigation
- Follow Established Guidelines:
Research–based web design and usability guidelines (Usability.gov), Federal Plain Language Guidelines (PlainLanguage.gov), Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 (World Wide Web Consortium - W3C)
- First Fridays Usability Testing Program offers free usability testing for federal government websites.
- DigitalGov University offers webinars, short seminars, and one- and two-day courses on web usability, design, and other topics for web managers.
- Usability.gov is the primary government resource on usability, including usability research and training opportunities.
- PlainLanguage.gov offers guidelines, examples, and training information on writing for the web and meeting the requirements of the Plain Writing Act of 2010.
- Usability Research: Stay current with these free e-newsletters:
User Experience Community of Practice provides leadership, networking, and collaborative opportunities for government web managers and usability analysts to make the practice of user-centered design routine part of agency operations.