Five Best Practices for Website Usability

Five Best Practices for Website Usability
Posted on 04/09/2018
CivicLive Blog - Five Best Practices for Website Usability

Developing a usable website takes time, skill and organization. That’s why knowing the best practices you can employ to ensure superior usability is an important first step. Below we outline five best practices every local government website should incorporate when redesigning their website in order to offer residents the best in website usability.

Let’s take a closer look.

1. Know Your Audience

When building or redesigning a website you must focus on meeting your unique users’ needs because their needs will have a big impact on your site’s overall navigation. To do this you need to know who your audience is.

There are two steps to take when identifying your audience:

  1. Perform a content audit. A content audit involves going over all of the content currently on your website and deciding on its purpose, whether it’s still relevant, if it needs updates or if it can be removed. By performing a content audit you’ll begin to determine the unique groups using your website and more importantly, their needs (based on what they’re already looking at on your site).
  2. Next, create a structural map of your information environment, this is called your information architecture. This visual will demonstrate how your current content is nested, and will help you decide how you can better structure your content’s flow for your top audience’s needs.

2. Navigation

Website usability relies heavily on your website’s navigation, if your website is hard to navigate that means the usability is weak. Simplicity is the key to a strong website. When seeking information, Internet users want answers as fast as possible. This is why an easy-to-navigate website with just enough information and visuals on each page is ideal.

Try to stick to the golden rules:

  • Offer 4-7 top-level menus only.
  • Keep to the three-click rule—it shouldn’t take a website visitor more than three clicks from when they first arrive on your web page to find what they’re looking for.
  • Offer thorough search capabilities for users who prefer direct searches.
  • Use friendly URLs—they’re neat, organized and professional.

3. Keep a Consistent Design

Your website’s design is important to its usability—including how messages and calls-to-action (CTAs) are displayed and their consistency and clarity. This is why you want to be sure every page a user visits clearly presents its purpose to your audience.

  • Place all CTAs in a prominent, clearly defined position.
  • Maintain a consistent design across every page on your site.
  • Minimize visual clutter—too much content can make it difficult to find the information that matters the most to your audience.

4. Review Your Analytics

Understanding how your audience uses your website will help you achieve the best usability possible. Use a tool like Google Analytics to learn which pages people are viewing most frequently. Once you’ve determined your most popular pages, give them priority—this is what interests your core audience and draws them to your website. Before you change a page’s position, be sure you have checked its bounce rate. A bounce rate tells you how much time any one visitor is spending on a page they visit. In some cases, a page will have high visitor traffic that lasts for seconds only. This usually signifies a page is mislabeled, or the information on the page doesn’t actually correspond to what is implied. However, sometimes there are pages necessary to your website that may always have a high bounce rate. For example, a “Contact Us” page may have a higher bounce rate because once a visitor has found the contact information they need, they leave to send an email or call a department.

5. Build for Accessibility

Legally, all government websites must adhere to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). An accessible website is one that is usable for citizens and employees with disabilities. This means your government website must:

  • Provide captions for every image on your site. Do not place information directly on the image, instead include a separate text or caption box so that assistive software can read it.
  • Include closed captioning or transcripts for every video or recording you upload.
  • Always include captions on images you share on social media. You can do this by adding bracketed text (after your initial post caption) that describes the accompanying image.
  • Do not upload scanned documents and PDFs—reading software cannot read them.

Website Usability Matters

Building a usable website is important to providing your website users with an organized and efficient means of communicating with their local government. The best practices listed in this article are only the beginning requirements for a fully usable website. For a more thorough take on usable website best practices download the e-book, Ten Best Practices for Creating and Maintaining a Usable Website.

To learn more about how the CivicLive solution can help you meet your citizens' needs, contact us today.

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