Review Your Site's Usability and Accessibility

Colorful graphic with a magnifying glass superimposed over different sized bubbles.

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.

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.

More Usability Tips

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

Usability Guidelines for Non-Profit Web Sites covers all the basics of creating a site that's clear, clean, and easy to navigate.

About the Author

UUA Web Team, Information Technology Services

The Web Team develops and manages UUA web sites and applications including and and several custom-built applications like our ministry search and congregational certification systems.

For more information contact .