5 Tips for Better Usability

In the spirit of our next GOVTalks session, which focuses on usability, I decided to list 5 ways websites can give their users a positive experience.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but it's a small introduction to the significance of a useful and accessible website.

  1. Structure your content for easier navigation.
    Find relationships between your types of content, and structure them in a way that makes sense for the user. Invest in understanding your user’s behavior — what they need, what they value, and how they move through information. The goal is to help users find information quickly and efficiently.
  2. Keep your content uncluttered.
    Make sure your information is scannable. Users should be able to process your content easily and quickly. By making sure there is plenty of white space between your content, dividing information in related sections, using short paragraphs, descriptive headings, lists, and related images, users will find it easier to focus on and process the information they need.
  3. Keep your content up to date.
    When a website’s content is outdated and inaccurate, the agency’s credibility can decrease, and cause headaches and confusion for the user. Make sure your website is always up to date, especially including documents, instructions, and contact information.
  4. Have a professionally designed website.
    An organization’s website has become one of the first interactions a user will experience with them — make sure it looks good. Provide a positive first impression that supports your agency’s purpose and mission. This includes choosing the right theme, providing consistent layouts, and only using high-quality images and videos that are relevant and meaningful to the agency.
  5. Use Alt attributes.
    Alt text and tags are used mainly to ensure users with accessibility needs and screen readers can still have as close to the same experience on your website as any other user. Make sure to use these features to explain your images and maps, and caption your audio and video files. When writing the text, keep in mind what would be useful to a user who cannot see the image. The alt attribute is an alternative for the image, usually stating its purpose and fulfilling the same function as the image.

Our GOVTalks: Usability workshop will go more in depth with each of these areas, showing the importance of a good user experience, tools to help test your website and user’s behavior, and a hands-on session where attendees can gain real-life experience in usability testing using Jakob Nielsen's heuristic evaluation techniques. Attending is strongly encouraged, and free lunch (and insight) is guaranteed!

For more resources and information about website usability, check out www.usability.gov.

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