Website usability is not always obvious. First, I should probably define usability so that all of us are on the same page. According to wikipedia, “Usability is the ease of use and learnability of a human-made object.”
How Usable is a Driveway?
The driveway at our house has a big problem. It’s only wide enough to fit one car! Sure, if you live there by yourself, that’s no problem, but for the rest of us, it can become a big annoying headache! Sure, two cars can fit if we park one in front of the other, but then you have to play the game of “who’s leaving first and/or rotating the cars?” Yes, it is usable in that a car is perfectly capable of parking on it but that is not enough. Our house was clearly built for more than one person to live there so this problem should have come up somewhere along the way of building and laying out the driveway. Instead, one of us has to always park on the side of the street.
When you are building a website, just because something looks standard and usable, doesn’t necessarily that mean it is for the users of that particular website. It’s important to always think about how people are going to actually use your site/page/function and how much sense does it make in terms of the route they will take through your site.
Portfolios, For Example
I have now designed and built this website 4 times and everytime I build it I do a lot of inspiration research to see what other designers and developers are doing. The standard portolio has a section or page of examples that are shown in little boxes and then the user clicks into the specific entry they want to view. A problem that I have found on a lot of portfolio websites is that once you have clicked into a specific entry, the only way to get to the other entries in the portfolio is by going back to the main page and then clicking on a different entry.
First off, how do your users get back to the main portfolio page? I find that most people seem to instinctively use the back button in their browser. On the current version of my site, the other option is that the navigation and particularly, the “My Work” link is always visible. I like having multiple ways of doing things since not everyone will use your site the same way.
I also added pagination links between the different entries of my portfolio so that if you want to view the previous or next entry you don’t have to go back to the main page. Is this important? Absolutely! The quicker and easier things are to access on your site, the better. Despite how much we click or tap on things throughout our use of devices/the internet, we do not like clicking or tapping if we can just scroll to see what we want to view and we certainly don’t like going backwards in order to go forward.