Usability 2.0 – Making Web Applications more Usable

Share this Article

Author:

This is the first of our posts and activities for World Usability Day – get involved yourself by contributing articles to osama@greenwhite.org

This article is written by Obaid Ahmed, an avid G&W participant, founder of Deensoft and creator of Workspace and Wixd, two of the first startups we covered at Green & White. Recently, Deensoft has also been creating a javascript-based UI framework called ProtoFlow and ProtoChart.

"Usability rules the Web. Simply stated, if the customer can’t find a project, then he or she will not buy it. The Web is the ultimate customer-empowering environment. He or she who clicks the mouse gets to decide everything. It is so easy to go elsewhere; all the competitors in the world are but a mouse click away." – Jakob Neilsen

Over the past few years, Rich Internet Applications (RIA) have really taken the web by storm. We all are using at least one web application which can be classified as RIA. While this transition has created some really neat and nifty applications — it has also broken the traditional web application model that users were familiar with.

If you are a Yahoo Mail or Hotmail user, you might have noticed a big change in your mailbox recently. The new and improved User Interface tries to provide an easy to use and "outlook" like interface.  While all these new techniques under RIA are a good step forward, it also creates a big problem. Creating clean and effective user interfaces just got harder. 

Today being the World Usability Day, I thought it would be worth going through some usability issues and techniques that web developers should be aware of.

User-Centered Design (UCD):

Your application design should revolve around your user. No surprise here. UCD is a standard approach for RIA’s since most of the content in these applications is generated by users, it has to be revolving around the user himself.

Readability:

Making sure that your content is readable and understandable. This means that your headings for various different sections on your site, navigation, controls should be understandable. Readability is not legibility. So making your text pretty does not mean its readable.

Physical Consistency:

Your website should appear the same consistently. If you keep changing the layout from page-to-page, the user has to relearn and you loose them.

Graceful Degradation:

While Javascript and Flash are awesome tools to use, be prepared to provide an alternate option to your users who either don’t have flash or have disabled javascript. If your application cannot work without underlying technologies then be prepared to provide a clear and clean message indicating why they are not able to use the feature.

Cliffhanger-Effect:

Also known as Zeigarnik-Effect was found by Bluma W. Zeigarnik in 1927. The effect establishes an emotional connection with readers and is extremely effective in terms of marketing. The effect creates a suspense in users mind about certain event. You might be using it when you are reading an article and at the end it says: "Subscribe to our feed for the next part". This creates an emotional suspense in users mind which makes them remember your site more prominently.

Shneiderman’s "Eight Golden Rules of Interface Design":

You can improve usability of an application by following these 8 golden rules. (Source)

  1. Strive for consistency
  2. Enable frequent users to use shortcuts
  3. Offer informative feedback
  4. Design dialog to yield closure
  5. Offer simple error handling
  6. Permit easy reversal of actions
  7. Support internal locus of control
  8. Reduce short-term memory load

3 Click Rule:

One of the most important rules to remember while creating a user interface. If the user does not find the information they are looking for in 3 clicks than they will stop using your application. The number of clicks in this rule isn’t that important; what is really important is that visitors should always know where they are, where they were and where are they going next.

Banner Blindness:

As a web user we are bombarded by different ads all the time. We learn to ignore them. Our brain learns the basic characteristics of an advertisements and makes it really easy for us to ignore parts of a webpage that look like an advertisement. When I first visited KarachiSnob.com — I closed the site down in less than 2 seconds because I thought I had reached a "parked domain" with ads on it. The content must not confuse the user by looking like an advertisement.

Why should we care about these rules?

As more and more web applications emerge in Pakistan, it is important that we put on our usability hat to create better systems. Over the past 1 year or so I have seen many create web applications that seem to totally ignore usability. Lets make an effort to think about how you can improve the usability of your application so that user spends the maximum time on your application and generates the maximum revenue.

References:

Facebook comments:

1 Comment

Leave a Reply


*

Recent Posts

  • Events General Mobile Apps Container Run a continuation of politically motivated apps

    Container Run a continuation of politically motivated apps

    First we had Angry Imran which brought smiles and some short lived fun for us during the election campaign. Then came Gullu Butt following the incident of Model Town Lahore, which stayed on top of charts (Pakistan play store) for quite some while. Also Gullu Butt made an update with having the famous “Aam Khaiyga” quote form Aamir Liaqat in which a character resembling Aamir Liaqt throws mangoes and the Gullu Butt character tries to catch them. Gullu butt currently has more than 100,000 Installs

    And now during this extremely politically tense situation which had the whole nation on its toes on 14th August we have another app continuing the …

    Read more →
  • Announcements Featured Startup General Meritaleem.com aims to help student make better decision regarding their future.

    Meritaleem.com aims to help student make better decision regarding their future.

    MeriTaleem.com aims to solve an age old problem for our students, where to go next?

    If you have just completed your primary school which college to pick, if you have completed your college which university to pick. There has always been lack of information or rather consolidated information regarding these questions. The best source till now has always been relatives and friends (mostly of your parents). So some uncle did CA and made a good living you should talk to him and decide, or daughter of my sister completed her medical and is practicing follow that career.

    The fact that online presence of our existing universities are limited and not …

    Read more →
  • General Mobile Apps Eccentria Technologies launches an app which shoots to the top of the charts

    Eccentria Technologies launches an app which shoots to the top of the charts

    Whoa!! this was quick so Eccentia technologies launched an app a few days ago called “Ajj Kia Pakaen” or what to cook today and today it has reached the top of charts for Pakistani Stores on iTunes and google play store.

    “Ajj Kia Pakaen” is the most common question asked at every house hold in the morning. The ladies of the family have a hard time deciding what to cook for the day. The app has a fun interface and is simple to use, you fire it up, and it gives you an option of what to cook for the day, if you like the option you can check the …

    Read more →
  • Coffee Session General Marketing/Adv Rise of facebook marketing in Pakistan

    Rise of facebook marketing in Pakistan

     

    Until a few years back we used to have closed groups and forums, which gathered the like minded people and anyone targeting the online audience would tap into that forum and market his/her services. So PakGamers , PakPassion initially even PakWheels used to be driven by members talking about what they loved, people used to create marketing and sales opportunities from within those discussions (so you could get a good router cheap or a gaming PC etc).
    The advent of facebook changed all that, most of the forum goers moved to the new social media. It also made a very attractive market place for some one who does not …

    Read more →
  • General Getting back

    Getting back

    I  have been out of blogging for a long long long time, a lot of things happening on personal front (including a little startup I have ben doing my self). However during my absence I met a lot of people who had followed GreenWhite at its peak, read the articles regularly.

    I had hope there would be some one else who would come ahead and cover everything going on and around us in the local tech world. There are some guys doing a great job, but for some reason I still could not find one source where I can go and read about everything, so my routine usually is to …

    Read more →
  • General Mobile Apps Software & I.T. GeniTeam launches official app for Pakistan Idol

    GeniTeam launches official app for Pakistan Idol

    GeniITeam has successfully launched an official app for PakistanIdol. This is one of the first collaboration between a reality game show and a local app development company. I am sure a lot more would follow. Previously we have seen seenreport becoming the basis of mostly all channels citizen reporting system (Like Geo Dost). This is a healthy sign and with the advent of 3G round the corner it should become a business generator for our local firms.

    App allows you to follow the contestants that you like, promote them, comment on live feedback on an episode. It offers official content from the show since it is developed with partnership with …

    Read more →
  • General 10Pearls and National Geographic Release A Geography Challenge App

    10Pearls and National Geographic Release A Geography Challenge App

    10Pearls, one of the leading Pakistani IT companies, has recently added another feather to its cap. This time, in partnership with National Geographic, 10Pearls has released the new and improved GeoBee Challenge App – an interactive app to challenge and grow the geographic knowledge of the users.

    Each year thousands of schools in the United States participate in the National Geographic Bee using materials prepared by the National Geographic Society. The competition is designed to encourage geography in the classroom, ignite student interest in the world around them, and increase public awareness about geography. Schools with students in grades four through eight are eligible for this entertaining and challenging test …

    Read more →
  • General 10Pearls Spins Off Game Plan8

    10Pearls Spins Off Game Plan8

    It’s heartening to see that Pakistani IT companies have now started to diversify themselves into non traditional areas, and are competing with global players in areas such as gaming. We have received information that 10Pearls, one of the leading  mobile and enterprise web development services companies in Pakistan, has spun-off a separate entity focused solely on developing and publishing casual mobile games.  The new entity, Game Plan8, will focus on creating 2D and 3D games for the iOS, Google Android, Kindle, Facebook and other platforms. Details can be seen on the company’s official press release at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2013/12/prweb11428177.htm

     …

    Read more →
  • General Telecom CCP Gives Guidelines Against Telecom Companies’ Deceptive Marketing

    CCP Gives Guidelines Against Telecom Companies’ Deceptive Marketing

    If only were there two things when it comes to the law, firstly the fear of breaking it and by passing the legal authority, and secondly, implementation of the law given full dedication, there would have been less competency and dishonesty in business and society. However, keeping good faith, the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) has put forward “Deceptive Marketing Guidelines” which will maintain the Section 10 of the Competition Act, 2010. In order to enforce this part of the law and stop anti-competitive conduct on part of the telecom companies in advertising, the guidelines have been shared with Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and other concerned telecommunication sector members, in …

    Read more →