Test your Website: A 57-Point Checklist for Maximum Usability

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So you’ve got a website, but do you know whether it’s usable or not? The answer to this question can make the difference between a successful site and one that’s just ignored. Go through this checklist to make sure your site is up to scratch.

  1. Computer, courtesy of PixabayDo you answer your user’s questions?: Users visit a site because they want answers, so it’s vitally important that your site gives them what they are looking for.
  2. Is your navigation clear and simple?: Make sure that your navigation lets the user know where they have been and where they can go in a clear, consistent manner.
  3. Do you provide anchor text?: Ensure that your visitor always knows where links are headed by discussing the site before you ask them to “click here.”
  4. Does your design guide the eye?: Use color, position, size, and more to create a specific flow for your site.
  5. Do you start link names with important keywords?: Use important keywords in your links so that users know when they’ve found the right information.
  6. Is your wording straightforward?: Take a look at your language to make sure it’s simple enough for all users to understand.
  7. Does your writing look like an inverted pyramid?: Give web users the instant gratification they want by offering the most important information early on.
  8. Do you have “white space?”: By placing too many elements too close together, you may overwhelm users. Spread things out a little.
  9. Have you offered contact information?: If your site doesn’t answer all of a visitor’s questions, they will probably want to speak to you about it. Allow them an easy way to contact you.
  10. Do you change URLs?: Don’t. This creates linkrot, in which links to your site are broken, and discourages other sites from linking to you in the future.
  11. Do you have a site map?: A site map is very important for a large site, because it helps lost users find their way and also makes it easy for search engines to spider your site.
  12. Does your information look like an ad?: Users will ignore information if it resembles a promotion, so avoid using large red text and other design elements found in advertisements.
  13. Does your site require unnecessary plugins?: Be aware that not everyone’s browser is fully decked out. Use a plugin only if it adds value and is absolutely necessary.
  14. Have you enabled graceful degradation?: Be sure that even if your site can’t display certain elements, the rest will still function properly.
  15. Does your logo link home?: Users expect that your site’s main logo will always link to your homepage, so make sure you’ve done this.
  16. Have you grouped information?: Make it easy for users to find what they’re looking for by arranging related information together, such as your corporate history alongside your career offerings.
  17. Do you provide visual clues for links?: Make sure that you’ve made your links obvious with colored, underlined text.
  18. Have you used color properly?: Avoid placing light-colored text on a light-colored background, or it will be hard for visitors to read your content. The same goes for dark-on-dark.
  19. Do you support deep-link users?: Check all of your site’s pages to make sure a user could orient themselves if they arrived on that page before any other place on your site.
  20. CodingIs your site organized with a consistent structure?: Be sure to include headings, lists, and a unifying structure from page to page.
  21. Do you show users where they’ve been?: Differentiate between visited and unvisited links so that visitors can navigate with ease.
  22. Is your text annoying?: Use bold, italic, and upper-caps text sparingly.
  23. Do your graphics mean anything?: If your graphics seem irrelevant or frivilous, users won’t be impressed, so make sure that any images you use are directly related to the content.
  24. Do you date your content?: Don’t make users guess about which content is current and which is obsolete. Add dates to articles, press releases, and other content.
  25. Is your site full of animation?: Cut down on unnecessary animations to avoid overwhelming the user.
  26. Have you optimized your writing for the web?: Ensure that your text is short, scannable, and to the point, offering answers and common language.
  27. Do your links work?: Always double check your site for broken links, as they’re one of the worst user annoyances out there.
  28. Do you have a tagline?: Use a tagline to give visitors an extremely quick summary of what you do and what the site’s about.
  29. Do you offer prices?: If you’re using your website as a sales tool, it is vitally important that you answer what is almost certainly your customer’s biggest question-how much is it?
  30. Do your error messages help?: Take a look at your error messages, and consider whether they just tell the user they’re wrong, or if they actually provide suggestions for how to remedy the problem.
  31. Have you tested alternative browsers?: Although the majority of the Internet is still on Internet Explorer, it’s vital that you make sure your page renders correctly in browsers like Firefox, Safari, Opera, and others.
  32. Does your content require horizontal scrolling?: Cut down on user annoyance by ensuring that your page’s width does not exceed your visitor’s browser.
  33. Have you added descriptions to images?: Let your users know what purpose an image serves by placing information in the ALT and TITLE attributes.
  34. Do you link within a page?: If so, cut it out. Linking to a different position on the same page will confuse visitors and undermine their understanding of the browser.
  35. Is your design consistent?: Don’t leave users guessing whether they’ve stumbled upon a different site. Use similar colors and typefaces throughout your entire site.
  36. Is your name and logo on every page?: Don’t assume that just because a user is on your site, they know who you are. Place your name and logo prominently on your site.
  37. Have you accelerated to the next step?: Make it painstakingly easy for users to see where they’re supposed to go next.
  38. Does your FAQ answer real questions?: If your FAQ is full of questions that you only wish your visitors would ask, you need to reassess. Make sure that you’re actually featuring frequently asked questions so that the FAQ is actually useful.
  39. Can users find information quickly?: Follow the 3-click-rule, which states that users will stop using a site if they can’t find the information they want within 3 mouse clicks.
  40. WordPress / PixabayIs your information cluttered?: If so, you need to break pages down into different sections.
  41. Are your forms too much trouble?: Cast a critical eye on your forms to make sure you’re allowing flexible inputs and not asking for unnecessary information.
  42. Is your site accessible for users with disabilities?: Check to make sure your site is readable by those with disabilities, especially the blind.
  43. Are your fonts readable?: Make your text readable by avoiding small font sizes and allowing font resizing.
  44. Is your site broken down into digestable chunks?: Follow the 7, plus or minus 2 principle, which states that users can retain only about 5-9 things at one time.
  45. Does your page load quickly?: Make sure your pages load quickly so that your website is friendly to those on slow Internet connections, or who have to pay per minute for Internet access.
  46. Is your title descriptive?: Make sure that your page title makes sense for the content you offer.
  47. Does your site render correctly in different screen resolutions?: If you’re only optimized for 1024×767, you’re rendering your site incorrectly to a lot of visitors.
  48. Do you offer a search function?: Make it incredibly easy for users to find information by providing a search box.
  49. Have you outlined a privacy policy?: It drives users crazy to give away their contact information without knowing what will be done with it. Make it explicitly clear whether you’ll sell their email address, and how often they’ll get email from you.
  50. Do you have a liquid layout?: Frozen layouts and fixed page widths make it difficult for large browsers to render your page, and this design poses problems with printing.
  51. Keyboard / PixabayDoes your content have spelling errors?: Check your content for errors in spelling or grammar, and don’t rely solely on a spell-check function because sometimes that software’s online engineering isn’t perfect.
  52. Do you use tabs responsibly?: Use tabs to change views while still in the same context, and make them incredibly readable and logically broken up.
  53. Is your splash page absolutely necessary?: Most users prefer to get right to the content instead of watching and waiting for a splash page to complete.
  54. Do you have a brandable URL?: Use a short URL so that it can be easily relayed from one user to the next, and you’ll make viral marketing easier to come by.
  55. Have you filled out TITLE and META tags?: Make sure you’ve filled out this information to let users and search engines know what your site’s all about.
  56. Do you emphasize high-priority tasks?: Make sure that your homepage highlights the important actions you’d like visitors to make.
  57. Do users know when they’re clicking an email link?: Ensure that users know when to expect their email program to pop up.

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