Website Usability

"Usability" refers to the ease with which people can use a website in order to achieve their goal. Principles of usability help people of all abilities, using any web browser, to make the most of the content provided.

Summary

"Usability" refers to the ease with which people can use a website in order to achieve their goal. Principles of usability help people of all abilities, using any web browser, to make the most of the content provided.

Review Your Site's Usability: Ask yourself these questions as you look again at the pages of your site.

Usability Testing

Rocket Surgery Made Easy is a fantastic resource for learning about and running usability tests. It’s amazingly powerful to watch people try to use your site. With frequent usability tests, you can often catch (and fix) the most glaring errors.

Don’t argue. Test. When egos or ideas conflict during the process of building and maintaining a website, it’s invaluable to refer to test results—or more powerful yet, video—of people utterly failing at some critical task—or succeeding at something that everyone thought would be just awful. Find out what works instead of speculating about it!

Measuring user engagement on a larger scale than is possible with in-person usability tests can often be helpful. Running Content Experiments with Google will let you compare the performance of different versions of a page to see whether one of them performs quantifiably better than the other.

Usability Tips

Links

Tips for writing great links really covers it all.

Sidebar Content

Headers and White Space

Fonts

  • Limited Bold (bold text causes eye fatigue)
  • Plain Links (underlined text is already harder to read)
  • Lower Case (don't "shout" at your readers while reducing their comprehension)

Images

  • Best Images (some images lend themselves to web use better than others)

"Under Construction"

More Information

Choose the Best Images for Your Web Pages

Usability Tip

Choose images that enhance your story: engage your reader with faces or meaningful imagery.

Use the text of your article to list participants and describe activities. You don't need to prove anything photographically: if an image is distracting instead of engaging, your story loses value. You leave your reader wondering, "What is going on there?" or, "What's that face he's making?" instead of focusing on your content.

In many cases, using no picture is better than using a bad picture. For alternatives to poor event photos, you might consider:

  • asking speakers or participants to pose for a picture when the event wraps up (perhaps near a landmark or holding an event banner),
  • contacting speakers for professional headshots, or
  • using a generic close-up of something relevant (clasped hands, a lit chalice, marching feet...).

Close-ups work best for catching the eye. When an image contains a lot of detail important to your story, be sure to describe that detail in your text; then the image serves the purpose of accentuating and supplementing your article instead of bearing the weight of delivering important information.

Jakob Nielsen's "Banner Blindness: Old and New Findings" offers some tips on effective imagery, along with a reminder that the content area of a page is most viewed, and therefore most important.

"...we know that there are 3 design elements that are most effective at attracting eyeballs:

  • Plain text
  • Faces
  • Cleavage and other 'private' body parts"

Accessibility Alert

Images, obviously, rely upon the ability to see. "Alt" tags should provide a text equivalent to each image used to convey content. Alternative text should be accurate, equivalent, and succinct, and it should avoid redundancy (if the content of the image is already in the body of the article or in a caption for the image, it is then desirable to make the alt tag empty). Read Appropriate Use of Alternative Text for more detail.

Don't Make "Coming Soon" or "Under Construction" Pages

Under_Construction

Don't risk your credibility with a frustrating lack of information.

Don't create pages (or links to pages) that have no content or that are "under construction." Publishing pages that are empty creates credibility issues.

There are two good options to minimize user frustration:

  1. Provide a basic page with some or all of the following:
    • Simple, relevant information
    • Contact information so the visitor can follow up
    • A description or sample of the content to come
    • An invitation to return on a certain date (be sure to post a date you can honor with more complete information)
    • A way to be notified when the new content is posted
  2. Don't post the information at all. Just wait until the new content is complete, and post it then.

Limit Your Use of Bold Text on Web Pages

Usability Sample

Which is easier to read? Which gives you information more quickly?

Hard to Scan Easier to Scan

Commerce

"Commerce in the Middle Ages," says M. Charles Grandmaison, "differed but little from that of a more remote period. It was essentially a local and limited traffic, rather inland than maritime, for long and perilous sea voyages only commenced towards the end of the fifteenth century, or about the time when Columbus discovered America."

On the fall of the Roman Empire, commerce was rendered insecure, and, indeed, it was almost completely put a stop to by the barbarian invasions, and all facility of communication between different nations, and even between towns of the same country, was interrupted. In those times of social confusion, there were periods of such poverty and distress, that for want of money commerce was reduced to the simple exchange of the positive necessaries of life. When order was a little restored, and society and the minds of people became more composed, we see commerce recovering its position; and France was, perhaps, the first country in Europe in which this happy change took place.

Commerce

Local and Limited in the Middle Ages

"Commerce in the Middle Ages," says M. Charles Grandmaison, "differed but little from that of a more remote period. It was essentially a local and limited traffic, rather inland than maritime, for long and perilous sea voyages only commenced towards the end of the fifteenth century, or about the time when Columbus discovered America."

Almost Stopped After the Roman Empire

On the fall of the Roman Empire, commerce was rendered insecure, and, indeed, it was almost completely put a stop to by the barbarian invasions, and all facility of communication between different nations, and even between towns of the same country, was interrupted. In those times of social confusion, there were periods of such poverty and distress, that for want of money commerce was reduced...

Source: The Project Gutenberg EBook of Manners, Custom and Dress During the Middle Ages and During the Renaissance Period, by Paul Lacroix. Modifed to illustrate web usability principles.

Usability Tip

Use bold text sparingly.

Though bold text is great for adding emphasis to a word or phrase, over time it causes eye fatigue and reduces comprehension. The use of white space and headers is a far more effective method of calling out important information. Studies do not show a drop in comprehension from the use of italicized text.

Make Web Links Plain

Usability Sample

Is it more important that you click on the links provided than it is to keep reading the article?

Emphasized and Linked Links Still Catch Attention

Guilds and Trade Corporations

Learned authorities have frequently discussed, without agreeing, on the question of the origin of the Corporations of the Middle Ages. It may be admitted, we think à priori, that associations of artisans were as ancient as the trades themselves. It may readily be imagined that the numerous members of the industrial classes, having to maintain and defend their common rights and common interests, would have sought to establish mutual fraternal associations among themselves. The deeper we dive into ancient history the clearer we perceive traces, more or less distinct, of these kinds of associations. To cite only two examples, which may serve to some extent as an historical parallel to the analogous institutions of the present day, we may mention the Roman Colleges, which were really leagues of artisans following the same calling; and the Scandinavian guilds, whose object was to assimilate the different branches of industry and trade, either of a city or of some particular district.

Guilds and Trade Corporations

Learned authorities have frequently discussed, without agreeing, on the question of the origin of the Corporations of the Middle Ages. It may be admitted, we think à priori, that associations of artisans were as ancient as the trades themselves. It may readily be imagined that the numerous members of the industrial classes, having to maintain and defend their common rights and common interests, would have sought to establish mutual fraternal associations among themselves. The deeper we dive into ancient history the clearer we perceive traces, more or less distinct, of these kinds of associations. To cite only two examples, which may serve to some extent as an historical parallel to the analogous institutions of the present day, we may mention the Roman Colleges, which were really leagues of artisans following the same calling; and the Scandinavian guilds, whose object was to assimilate the different branches of industry and trade, either of a city or of some particular district.

Source: The Project Gutenberg EBook of Manners, Custom and Dress During the Middle Ages and During the Renaissance Period, by Paul Lacroix. Modifed to illustrate web usability principles.

Usability Tip

Use text markup appropriately.

Bold text, for example, indicates an emphasis on a word or phrase. Linked text indicates that additional information is available. Blue, underlined text already catches the eye, so there's no need to add extra styles to links. Additionally, since underlining already distorts the shape of letters and reduces reading comprehension, avoiding unnecessary styles will improve your readers' ability to grasp your meaning.

Indicate additional emphasis in your content through the use of white space or headers.

Accessibility Alert

Web code (headers, emphasis, quoted text) means something. Different browsers or screen readers may interpret such elements differently depending on their users' needs. Don't use meaningful code just to make something "pretty."

Make Your Web Links Brief

Usability Sample

Find a link to a picture of someone hunting.

Hard to Scan Easier to Scan

Privileges and Rights. Feudal and Municipal

When the feudal nobles granted to their vassals the right of assembling on certain days, in order to hold fairs and markets, they never neglected to reserve to themselves some tax on each head of cattle, as well as on the various articles brought in and put up for sale. As these fairs and markets never failed to attract a great number of buyers and sellers, this formed a very lucrative tax for the noble (Fig. 26).

The right of sporting or hunting was of all prerogatives that dearest to, and most valued by the nobles. Not only were the severest and even cruellest penalties imposed on "vilains" who dared to kill the smallest head of game, but quarrels frequently arose between nobles of different degrees on the subject, some pretending to have a feudal privilege of hunting on the lands of others (Fig. 27). From this tyrannical exercise of the right of hunting, which the least powerful of the nobles only submitted to with the most violent and bitter feelings, sprung those old and familiar ballads, which indicate the popular sentiment on the subject.

Privileges and Rights. Feudal and Municipal

When the feudal nobles granted to their vassals the right of assembling on certain days, in order to hold fairs and markets, they never neglected to reserve to themselves some tax on each head of cattle, as well as on the various articles brought in and put up for sale. As these fairs and markets (Fig. 26) never failed to attract a great number of buyers and sellers, this formed a very lucrative tax for the noble.

The right of sporting or hunting was of all prerogatives that dearest to, and most valued by the nobles. Not only were the severest and even cruellest penalties imposed on "vilains" who dared to kill the smallest head of game, but quarrels frequently arose between nobles of different degrees on the subject, some pretending to have a feudal privilege of hunting (Fig. 27) on the lands of others. From this tyrannical exercise of the right of hunting, which the least powerful of the nobles only submitted to with the most violent and bitter feelings, sprung those old and familiar ballads, which indicate the popular sentiment on the subject.

Source: The Project Gutenberg EBook of Manners, Custom and Dress During the Middle Ages and During the Renaissance Period, by Paul Lacroix. Modifed to illustrate web usability principles.

Usability Tip

Make your link text brief.

Linked text draws the eye (and underlined text on the web indicates the presence of a link), but underlining spoils the shape of letters, reducing reading comprehension. People can choose to read the text on either side of your link, but making long links removes their choice in the matter, since it's not immediately obvious which is the meaningful part of your linked text. Make your links as brief as possible while retaining meaning.

Tips for writing great links really covers it all.

Use Empty Space in Your Web Pages

Usability Sample

How quickly can you find out what made the circus disappear?

Hard to Scan Easier to Scan

Games and Pastimes

The Romans, especially during the times of the
emperors, had a passionate love for performances in the circus and amphitheatre, as well as for chariot races, horse races, foot races, combats of animals, and feats of strength and agility.
The daily life of the Roman people may be summed up as consisting of taking their food and enjoying games in the circus (panem et circenses).
A taste for similar amusements was common to the Gauls as well as to the whole Roman Empire; and, were historians silent on the subject, we need no further information than that which is to be gathered from the ruins of the numerous amphitheatres, which are to be found at every centre of Roman occupation.
The circus disappeared on the establishment of the Christian religion, for the bishops condemned it as a profane and sanguinary vestige of Paganism, and, no doubt, this led to the cessation of combats between man and beast.
They continued, however, to pit wild or savage animals against one another, and to train dogs to fight with lions, tigers, bears, and bulls; otherwise it would be difficult to explain the restoration by King Chilpéric (A.D. 577) of the circuses and arenas at Paris and Soissons.

Games and Pastimes

The Romans, especially during the times of the emperors, had a passionate love for:

  • performances in the circus and amphitheatre,
  • chariot races,
  • horse races,
  • foot races,
  • combats of animals, and
  • feats of strength and agility.

The daily life of the Roman people may be summed up as consisting of taking their food and enjoying games in the circus (panem et circenses).

A taste for similar amusements was common to the Gauls as well as to the whole Roman Empire; and, were historians silent on the subject, we need no further information than that which is to be gathered from the ruins of the numerous amphitheatres, which are to be found at every centre of Roman occupation.

The circus disappeared on the establishment of the Christian religion, for the bishops condemned it as a profane and sanguinary vestige of Paganism, and, no doubt, this led to the cessation of combats between man and beast...

Source: The Project Gutenberg EBook of Manners, Custom and Dress During the Middle Ages and During the Renaissance Period, by Paul Lacroix. Modifed to illustrate web usability principles.

Usability Tip

Use bullet points, short paragraphs, and/or headers to increase space and improve the scannability of your text.

The use of "scanning" is one of the major ways web readers differ from print readers. A web page has a ridiculously short period of time to convince a reader that what they're looking for can be found on that page. Scannability helps accomplish that goal.

Accessibility Alert

"In a 'front-loaded' paragraph, the conclusion comes first, followed by the what, why, when, where and how. By placing the conclusion first, you allow screen reader users to instantly gain an understanding of what the paragraph's about. They can then decide whether they want to keep listening to that paragraph, or skip to the next one (which they can do easily with the screen reader). If the paragraphs are short, users can skip forward knowing that they won't miss extra information.

"Front-loading content obviously benefits all users, as your site visitors no longer have to search around to find the main point of each paragraph."
Seven Screen Reader Usability Tips

Use Lower Case Text on Your Web Pages

Usability Sample

Which is easier to read?

Hard to Read Easier to Read

TAXES, MONEY, AND FINANCE

IF WE BELIEVE CAESAR'S COMMENTARIES ON THE GALLIC WAR, THE GAULS WERE GROANING IN HIS TIME UNDER THE PRESSURE OF TAXATION, AND STRUGGLED HARD TO REMOVE IT. ROME LIGHTENED THEIR BURDEN; BUT THE FISCAL SYSTEM OF THE METROPOLIS IMPERCEPTIBLY TOOK ROOT IN ALL THE ROMAN PROVINCES. THERE WAS AN ARBITRARY PERSONAL TAX, CALLED THE POLL TAX, AND A LAND TAX WHICH WAS NAMED CENS, CALCULATED ACCORDING TO THE AREA OF THE HOLDING. BESIDES THESE, THERE WERE TAXES ON ARTICLES OF CONSUMPTION, ON SALT, ON THE IMPORT AND EXPORT OF ALL ARTICLES OF MERCHANDISE, ON SALES BY AUCTION; ALSO ON MARRIAGES, ON BURIALS, AND ON HOUSES. THERE WERE ALSO LEGACY AND SUCCESSION DUTIES, AND TAXES ON SLAVES, ACCORDING TO THEIR NUMBER. TOLLS ON HIGHWAYS WERE ALSO CREATED; AND THE TREASURY WENT SO FAR AS TO TAX THE HEARTH.

Taxes, Money, and Finance

If we believe Caesar's Commentaries on the Gallic War, the Gauls were groaning in his time under the pressure of taxation, and struggled hard to remove it. Rome lightened their burden; but the fiscal system of the metropolis imperceptibly took root in all the Roman provinces. There was an arbitrary personal tax, called the poll tax, and a land tax which was named cens, calculated according to the area of the holding. Besides these, there were taxes on articles of consumption, on salt, on the import and export of all articles of merchandise, on sales by auction; also on marriages, on burials, and on houses. There were also legacy and succession duties, and taxes on slaves, according to their number. Tolls on highways were also created; and the treasury went so far as to tax the hearth.

Source: The Project Gutenberg EBook of Manners, Custom and Dress During the Middle Ages and During the Renaissance Period, by Paul Lacroix. Modifed to illustrate web usability principles.

Usability Tip

Don't use all-caps.

Not only does the use of all upper case text reduce reading comprehension by up to 90%, it is interpreted by many as the text equivalent of yelling. Use headers to call out different sections, and bold or italicized text to add emphasis within a block of text.

Use Meaningful Headings on Your Web Pages

Meaningful headings help people scanning the page to quickly see its content. They help people hearing the page, who will be able to quickly jump from one section to another. They help search engines, who will use headings to help determine how likely your page is to help answer their searchers’ questions.

Usability Sample

What is each subsection about? How quickly can you determine which section(s) you want to read?

Hard to Scan Easier to Scan

Hunting

By the general term hunting is included the three distinct branches of an art, or it may be called a science, which dates its origin from the earliest times, but which was particularly esteemed in the Middle Ages, and was especially cultivated in the glorious days of chivalry.

What methods of hunting were employed by sportsmen in the Middle Ages?

Venery, which is the earliest, is defined by M. Elzéar Blaze as "the science of snaring, taking, or killing one particular animal from amongst a herd." Hawkingcame next. This was not only the art of hunting with the falcon, but that of training birds of prey to hunt feathered game. Lastly, l'oisellerie (fowling), which, according to the author of several well-known works on the subject we are discussing, had originally no other object than that of protecting the crops and fruits from birds and other animals whose nature it was to feed on them.

Gaston Phoebus and His Book

Gaston Phoebus is known to have been one of the bravest knights of his time; and, after fighting, he considered hunting as his greatest delight. Somewhat ingenuously he writes of himself as a hunter, "that he doubts having any superior." Like all his contemporaries, he is eloquent as to the moral effect of his favourite pastime. "By hunting," he says, "one avoids the sin of indolence; and, according to our faith, he who avoids the seven mortal sins will be saved; therefore the good sportsman will be saved."

Invoking the Moon, the Sacred Obscurity of Forests, and Oaks of Enormous Diameter

From the earliest ages sportsmen placed themselves under the protection of some special deity. Among the Greeks and Romans it was Diana and Phoebe. The Gauls, who had adopted the greater number of the gods and goddesses of Rome, invoked the moon when they sallied forth to war or to the chase; but, as soon as they penetrated the sacred obscurity...

​Hunting

By the general term hunting is included the three distinct branches of an art, or it may be called a science, which dates its origin from the earliest times, but which was particularly esteemed in the Middle Ages, and was especially cultivated in the glorious days of chivalry.

Venery and Hawking

Venery, which is the earliest, is defined by M. Elzéar Blaze as "the science of snaring, taking, or killing one particular animal from amongst a herd." Hawkingcame next. This was not only the art of hunting with the falcon, but that of training birds of prey to hunt feathered game. Lastly, l'oisellerie (fowling), which, according to the author of several well-known works on the subject we are discussing, had originally no other object than that of protecting the crops and fruits from birds and other animals whose nature it was to feed on them.

Sportsmen Avoid Indolence

Gaston Phoebus is known to have been one of the bravest knights of his time; and, after fighting, he considered hunting as his greatest delight. Somewhat ingenuously he writes of himself as a hunter, "that he doubts having any superior." Like all his contemporaries, he is eloquent as to the moral effect of his favourite pastime. "By hunting," he says, "one avoids the sin of indolence; and, according to our faith, he who avoids the seven mortal sins will be saved; therefore the good sportsman will be saved."

Presiding Deities of Sportsmen

From the earliest ages sportsmen placed themselves under the protection of some special deity. Among the Greeks and Romans it was Diana and Phoebe. The Gauls, who had adopted the greater number of the gods and goddesses of Rome, invoked the moon when they sallied forth to war or to the chase; but, as soon as they penetrated the sacred obscurity of the forests, they appealed more particularly to the goddess Ardhuina, whose name, of unknown origin, has probably since been applied to the immense well-stocked forests of Ardenne or Ardennes.

Source: The Project Gutenberg EBook of Manners, Custom and Dress During the Middle Ages and During the Renaissance Period, by Paul Lacroix. Modifed to illustrate web usability principles.

Usability Tip

Use brief, meaningful headers to allow your reader to scan a page quickly for the information they need.

The use of "scanning" is one of the major ways web readers differ from print readers. A web page has a ridiculously short period of time to convince a reader that what they're looking for can be found on that page. Scannability helps accomplish that goal.

Headers should guide a user through the content of a page quickly; if they're looking for something in particular, don't hide it behind explanations, clarifications, anecdotes or metaphors. Put those in the body of the section, once your reader's already figured out where their area of interest lies. Unless your audience is captive, they'll just leave the site if it's too frustrating to figure out whether the information they want is available there.

Accessibility Alert

"Screen reader users have the ability to call up a list of on-page headings, and jump to the section of the page in which they're most interested. If your page is properly marked-up, screen reader users will find it much easier to navigate than a page that doesn't use the correct tags."
Seven Screen Reader Usability Tips

Use Meaningful Links on Your Web Pages

Usability Sample

Find a link to a picture of Romans.

Meaningless Links Helpful Links

Condition of Persons and Lands

The period known as the Middle Ages, says the learned Benjamin Guérard, is the produce of Pagan civilisation, of Germanic barbarism, and of Christianity. Nothing could be more strangely troubled than the West at the time of the dissolution of the Empire of the Caesars; nothing more diverse or more discordant than the interests, the institutions, and the state of society, which were delivered to the Germans (Figs. 1 and 2). In fact, it would be impossible in the whole pages of history to find a society formed of more heterogeneous or incompatible elements. On the one side might be placed the Goths, Burgundians, Vandals, Germans, Franks, Saxons, and Lombards, nations, or more strictly hordes, accustomed to rough and successful warfare, and, on the other, the Romans, including those people who by long servitude to Roman dominion had become closely allied with their conquerors (Fig. 3). There were, on both sides, freemen, freedmen, colons, and slaves; different ranks and degrees being, however, observable both in freedom and servitude.

Condition of Persons and Lands

The period known as the Middle Ages, says the learned Benjamin Guérard, is the produce of Pagan civilisation, of Germanic barbarism, and of Christianity. Nothing could be more strangely troubled than the West at the time of the dissolution of the Empire of the Caesars; nothing more diverse or more discordant than the interests, the institutions, and the state of society, which were delivered to the Germans (Figs. 1 and 2). In fact, it would be impossible in the whole pages of history to find a society formed of more heterogeneous or incompatible elements. On the one side might be placed the Goths, Burgundians, Vandals, Germans, Franks, Saxons, and Lombards, nations, or more strictly hordes, accustomed to rough and successful warfare, and, on the other, the Romans (Fig. 3), including those people who by long servitude to Roman dominion had become closely allied with their conquerors. There were, on both sides, freemen, freedmen, colons, and slaves; different ranks and degrees being, however, observable both in freedom and servitude.

Source: The Project Gutenberg EBook of Manners, Custom and Dress During the Middle Ages and During the Renaissance Period, by Paul Lacroix. Modifed to illustrate web usability principles.

Usability Tip

Make your link text meaningful.

Linked text draws the eye, but generic text like "Click Here" gives no helpful information: the reader has to spend additional time reading the text before and after every link in order to find what they're looking for. The same is true of repetitive "Learn More", "Donate Now", or "PDF" links: they get in the way of a user's ability to quickly find what they need.

Read Make Web Links Meaningful in "Writing for the Web" for more tips on effective linking practices.

Accessibility Alert

"Screen reader users can browse Web pages by calling up a list of on-page links, and activating the link in which they're most interested. As such, non-descriptive link text such as 'click here' should be avoided at all costs: it makes no sense whatsoever when taken out of context."
Seven Screen Reader Usability Tips

Use Sidebar Content Sparingly on Your Web Pages

Usability Sample

Find links to this article's illustrations.

Private Life in the Castles, the Towns, and the Rural Districts

Augustin Thierry, taking Gregory of Tours, the Merovingian Herodotus, as an authority, thus describes a royal domain under the first royal dynasty of France.

"This dwelling in no way possessed the military aspect of the château of the Middle Ages; it was a large building surrounded with porticos of Roman architecture, sometimes built of carefully polished and sculptured wood, which in no way was wanting in elegance. Around the main body of the building were arranged the dwellings of the officers of the palace, either foreigners or Romans, and those of the chiefs of companies, who, according to Germanic custom, had placed themselves and their warriors under the King, that is to say, under a special engagement of vassalage and fidelity.

Illustrations

Source: The Project Gutenberg EBook of Manners, Custom and Dress During the Middle Ages and During the Renaissance Period, by Paul Lacroix. Modifed to illustrate web usability principles.

Usability Tip

Put important information in the body of your page.

Studies show your material will gain visibility: Readers tend to avoid looking at callout areas that look like ads; instead they focus on the body of a page. Putting your links at the bottom of a page won't cause them to be lost: before a reader leaves a page, they tend to check the bottom for useful content.

Heat maps show that clicks on UUA.org follow the standard that holds across the web: while content in the right sidebar gets some notice, the attention it receives pales in comparison to that given to the classic "F-shape" browsing pattern: Heat Map of a UUA.org Page (PDF).

If you have a lot of material to include, consider moving it to another page entirely, where it's not competing with your main article for attention, and where the shortening of the page and the addition of white space will improve reading comprehension, scannability, and search engine optimization.

Accessibility Alert: The use of columns on a web page arranges content visually for standard web browsers, and organizationally for people using screen readers or non-traditional browsers. Unless hidden links provide alternative page navigation, the columns are read top-to-bottom, left-to-right. On this site, the page content area is offered first, then the image/ related content column, then the site navigation. For all sets of users, your most important content should be placed at or near the top of the page content area.

Review Your Site's Usability

Try to look at your congregation's website with fresh eyes, and ask yourself the following questions.

  • Is it obvious who you are?
    Is your mission statement clearly visible on your home page? Don't bury this basic information on an "About" page—be sure your home page answers the most obvious question about you. Also review this basic checklist to make sure your site has all the essentials covered.
  • Do you have an explicit welcome to newcomers?
    Website usability studies show that "fluff" text tends to deter visitors (web users don't read—they scan to see if they can find what they're looking for, so you've got three seconds at most to convince someone to stay on your page). Don't waste valuable space with long text about how happy you are to welcome everyone, but do have some menu item or callout that specifically calls to newcomers and lets folks know where to start.
  • Does your navigation offer clear pathways to additional information?
    Analytics may help you consider the words you use in your navigation, to be sure you're using language that's natural to the people coming to your site—and to make sure that the things people are looking for most often are closer to the top of your navigation tree.
    Navigation is not the place to educate or inspire—it's the place to be completely obvious, transparently clear, and almost stultifyingly boring. Once people find what they're looking for, your content can take care of the education and inspiration.
    Optimal Workshop has some tools (which are free for small samples) that might help you do some card-sorting and tree-testing to come up with and then test a navigation.
  • Do you avoid "insider" language?
    We might know that Unitarian Universalist (UU) churches are well-known for their social action, so perhaps we can guess what a menu item like "Serving" means, but consider what your choice of words might mean to a person with no context.
  • Do you follow basic accessibility rules?
    Read some basics of web accessibility and be sure to test the readability of your color scheme.
  • What are the things your visitors are most likely to want to do?
    Find out how to visit? Review the "Sunday School" class schedule? Read sermons? Is it obvious how to accomplish those things?
  • Does your site work just as well on a small screen?
    Ever-increasing numbers of internet users are using mobile devices. Search engines like Google give preference to mobile-ready websites in their results. Make sure you're mobile-ready!
    Analytics can help you know and prioritize the tasks that most people are coming to your site to accomplish, and usability testing can help answer the question about how easy it is to do so.