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Is your site usable?

cartoon of woman replying to a man who is asking what usability is
It sounds simple, but making sure your site is usable is most important. Once a visitor arrives, it is vital that you make sure that he or she can use the site and understand its content. Listed below are a few steps you can take to make sure your visitor will be able to take full advantage of your website.

  • Navigation - Design and implement a clear, simple navigation system. Your visitors should be able to clearly see where they are, where they've been, and where they can go on your site. Related pages are organized as "parents" and "children"; nest the children pages under the proper parents, and group them together in a manner that makes sense. Keep the names of your links consistent on all pages or your visitors will be confused. Taking the time to make sure your links are clearly defined and easy to understand is critical to creating an orderly, easy-to-use site.
  • Content - Keep your content clear, easy to understand, and simple. Don't be afraid to get to the point right away: your visitors will appreciate that very much. Your visitors are looking for some specific terminology, so make sure to use all relevant terms in your copy, particularly on your home page where the right wording will also help search engines to find your site. Put your best content first, much as a newspaper would. Try not to clutter the page with excessive graphics or unnecessary copy. Keep your content easy to scan, since most visitors don't spend a long time on one page and tend to browse sites. Avoid graphics that contain text as that text is invisible to search engines; instead, use live text as much as you can. Lastly, make sure your content is visible and easy to read. We've taken the necessary steps to provide a clean, simple layout for you to work with in Site Builder 3.0, but if you choose unconventional colors for your body copy you could end up with a difficult visual interface. Simple is best!
  • Support the Toolkit Brand - We've been working very hard to deliver a consistent, easy-to-use branding method based on the Strategic Vision guidelines. We offer a small variety of approved logos for different programs. Please choose your brand carefully and keep it consistent throughout your site. Adding different logos or header images to different pages within your site may confuse visitors, so please choose your layout very carefully. By keeping your site consistent and easy to use, you afford your visitors the ability to predict and properly choose where they would like to go next. For more information and resources related to the ANR Strategic Vision Toolkit, visit the website here: http://ucanr.org/sites/Toolkit/. To read more about the ANR Strategic Vision, please visit this page: http://ucanr.org/anrstrategicvision
  • Feedback - Provide for visitor feedback. Allocate one location on your website where you can build a survey asking for comments, specific or general. Best practice is to offer a text field where your visitor can leave a comment on how he or she was able to find information and whether the site navigation was straightforward enough. Offer a physical address and contact information in case a visitor would like to mail a response or call you directly.
  • Test your site - Take the time to have your site tested by real users who are unfamiliar with the site. Pay close attention to their experiences. Do they enjoy the site? Do they understand the purpose of the site? Would they return, and if they do return is there an incentive for them to continue visiting your site (for instance, new or changing information)? Pay specific attention to broken links, errors, and unfinished content. Unsatisfied visitors are not likely to return if they are frustrated by the site.