What is useability and how it relates to web accessibility?

Janaina Santos, 20 October 2020

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Useability (or usability) and accessibility are both facets of user-centered UX. See how their application will help you to create a user-centered website.

Web useability and accessibility are both elements of good UX and overlap in a few aspects as the goal of both is to make the content on a web page understandable and accessible by everyone.

There are a few differences in the scope of these topics in design but if you structure your site with your user in mind, you may be able to successfully meet these two standards.

The User Experience Honeycomb by Peter Morville illustrates the pieces that should be taken into consideration when building a website – as you can see in the image, “accessible” and “usable” are both essential parts of a design that delivers outstanding user experience.

User Experience Honeycomb by Peter Morville

What is useability, or usability in web design?

In the world of web design, useability (also spelled usability) is related to how easily the information provided on a webpage can be digested by its readers. Reference

To achieve good website usability, the development and design should start from the customer perspective. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and start by asking basic questions:

– Can I find what I need on the website?
– Do I understand what is being sold?
– Do I manage to do what I came here to do?

There are a few ingredients in the usability formula: effectiveness, efficiency, engagement, error tolerance, and ease of learning.

Efficiency is a big one: users are not willing to navigate through a complicated design or confusing communication to find what they need.

Here are some factors that compose and affect usability:

1) Accessibility: as mentioned, the two are intrinsically connected. An accessible website is a website that can be easily used by anyone.

2) Responsiveness: linked to the ability of your website to work on different devices.

3) Search Engine Optimization (SEO): the architecture of your website makes in crawlable and searchable by search engines, making the content available for users.

4) Content and Messaging: clear and effective communication that leads the visitor to perform reach their goal.

5) Layout & Navigation: It should be easy and intuitive to navigate your website and find the information users are looking for. Menus, structure, etc. Look at good examples such as Apple: basic design that keeps the focus of the user where it should be.

6) Site speed and errors: Your website may be wonderful, but if it takes too long to load users won’t visit it. They should also be able to fast complete the actions they want. Monitor errors and ensure users can recover from it.

Digital Accessibility: offering an inclusive user experience

Putting the user at the center of the design of your website means considering the needs of all users. That is only possible if you remember that 10-15% of the world population has some type of disability.

For this group, the experience of visiting a website that is not adapted can be extremely frustrating.

Digital accessibility is not only nice to have, but in Europe, as in other regions, it is mandatory for public institutions to offer accessible content.

There is a broad range of disabilities that can become a barrier for users including visual, auditory, and cognitive (such as dyslexia). Following the web content accessibility guidelines will also make your content more inclusive, favoring an even broader group such as people with low literacy or sleep-deprived.

Amberscript can help you to meet the WAGC 2.1 Digital Accessibility standards for the deaf and hard of hearing.

How to get started

If you already have a website

Test it and adapt it

If you already have a website, you can assess how usable and accessible it is by running a few tests.

  • For usability, the tests are run with the purpose of identifying issues in the user flow, catching errors, and spotting opportunities to improve the overall user experience.

You can use tools like Optimizely, UserZoom, and UserTesting to get new insights and validate your hypothesis.

  • For digital accessibility, there are specific tests and tools that can be applied.

If you managing a website for a public institution in Europe or any other organization required by law to meet the accessibility standards, you should look into all the requirements of the WGAC 2.1 (Learn more by visiting our Digital Accessibility page and downloading our ebook).

If you are not required but would like to improve your website by making it accessible, you can follow the best practices such as adding subtitles and transcripts to audio and video content, using a proper contrast ratio, and providing an audio version for written content.

Learn how to create subtitles and add them to your videos

There is an array of tools that can test how accessible your website is. You can find an extensive list of testing tools here.

If you are building a website

If you are designing a new website, make sure you take the elements in the User Experience Honeycomb into consideration.

Create a website that is:

1) Useable – remember the main features are effectiveness, efficiency, engagement, error tolerance, and ease of learning.

2) Useful – Your product is filling a need, otherwise, you would not be selling it. Make it clear how useful it is by proving valuable and clear information.

3) Desirable – remember that the focus should be on what you promoting, not on the website alone. You don’t want to have a design that takes the attention away from your product. Take Apple’s example again for this point – a minimalist design that puts the product on the center of the stage.

4) Findable – that goes for SEO friendly architecture that helps users to find it but also for breadcrumbs, menus, and features that make the navigation inside your website easier.

5) Accessible – include users with disabilities to your marketing personas to ensure you will reach a larger audience. Incorporate the WCAG 2.1 guidelines to build an inclusive user-centered website.

6) Credible – make sure you make room for badges, testimonials, and ratings that show your users they can trust you.

Have in mind that usability is an ongoing process. The way users behave is not always intuitive so test, iterate, test again, and keep consistently improving the user experience on your website.

Summary

  • Useability (or usability) is an essential part of the user-centered design – it means to offer an easy to use website where information is clear and understandable.
  • Factors that compose and affect usability: Accessibility, responsiveness, SEO, Layout and navigation, site speed, and errors.
  • Accessibility is intrinsically connected to usability. It promotes digital content that can be used by everyone, including users with disabilities.
  • To ensure your website is useable and accessible, you should test it.
  • To build a user-centered website, you should take into consideration the facets of UX illustrated in Peter Morville’s User Experience Honeycomb: useful, useable, desirable, findable, accessible, credible, therefore valuable.
  • To learn more about how to create accessible content, visit our page, and download your ebook on Digital Accessibility.

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