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Website Usability 101: Definition, Principles and Methods

Website usability is an aspect of visual design that measures how easy a website is to use by real users.

Written by RamotionApr 17, 202314 min read

Last updated: Feb 21, 2024

Defining Website Usability

Over the past few years, web design and development have improved significantly. The design process is now frequently drawn to a user-centered approach than heavy usage of web animations and complex features. Designing and developing websites without the end users in mind can drastically affect the overall user experience, no matter how fancy a website is.

Attractive website design and excellent user experience are essential to every website's success. Your website should be creative enough that people want to look at and use it from the first time they've seen it. In addition, it must contain all of the necessary information and features they are looking for to achieve the goals for which they came to your website. As straightforward as it may sound, creating a highly usable website is not a walk in the park.

Website usability comprises different components and attributes that make user-website interaction smooth and efficient. It provides qualitative and quantitative metrics for measuring users' effectiveness, productivity, and satisfaction in achieving their goals when using a website. It consists of various principles and practices to improve website ease-of-use during and after the design and development lifecycle from wireframe to launch. Good website usability is vital for retaining users, increasing engagement, and ultimately, business goals.

Over the past few years, web design and development have improved significantly. The design process is now frequently drawn to a user-centered approach than heavy usage of web animations and complex features. Designing and developing websites without the end users in mind can drastically affect the overall user experience, no matter how fancy a website is.

Attractive website design and excellent user experience are essential to every website's success. Your website should be creative enough that people want to look at and use it from the first time they've seen it. In addition, it must contain all of the necessary information and features they are looking for to achieve the goals for which they came to your website. As straightforward as it may sound, creating a highly usable website is not a walk in the park.

The real power of a good and efficient website design comes from identifying and creating an easy-to-use yet effective user interface and elements to make your design meaningful in a way that will leave lasting impressions on your site visitors that go beyond the plain web standards. This can be measured by how easy it is for users to accomplish basic tasks on the website for the first time, establishing and re-establishing proficiency and overall user satisfaction.

When designing and developing websites, most website design experts and companies spend most of their time focusing on codebases. Sadly, most websites have less than a 40% success rate upon launch. While many important factors can contribute to a website's overall success, usability is one of the most important aspects of building an effective website.

Web usability is a necessary component of user experience or UX design. While it often needs clarification with what user experience (UX) is, website usability refers to the ease users can interact with and navigate a website to achieve their goals. To a certain degree, it determines how effective it is in accommodating users' needs while also engaging and supporting erroneous actions in certain situations.

Website usability isn't about how the website is created and engineered or what bleeding-edge technology it was implemented with but how the website helps people to complete their tasks, achieve their goals or even how they feel when using the website's interface and how easy it is to establish website usage proficiency without relying on any external knowledge-base.

If you want to improve and make your website stand out among the competition and keep the users from using it, web usability can be a great tool in making websites usable. It can enable users to learn, interact, understand, and memorize your website's interface and features at ease without heavily relying on external factors.

Web usability can be a commonly neglected aspect of the website design and development process and deserves to receive recognition as one important subcomponent aspect of design. It is essentially an irreplaceable part of user experience design that enables designers and developers to understand what users need and what good user experience means to your users. It can provide qualitative and quantitative measuring metrics on the overall website success.

Website usability is more than just a guideline or principle and includes several important aspects, such as utility, testing, and methodologies, to be highly effective.

Website usability is an essential indicator of user friendliness of a website which can be evaluated by observing users when using the website's features and user interfaces. Good usability design focuses on user-centric design, which focuses primarily on users' experience rather than the actual procedure.

Website usability principles are often used by both web designers and UX designers to create not only appealing websites or applications but great human-computer interaction and user experience when building them. Everything from simple graphics, animation, and user interfaces to the actual user experience itself, using web usability design principles ensures that website designs are easy to use, intuitive, and engaging for users. Web usability is an important part of web and UX design since it provides that the design is easy to use, accessible, and interesting for users.

UX Design is not Web Usability

Both user experience and web usability can sometimes mistakenly be thought of the same, especially when talking about the overall user experience on website usage. However, UX is different from usability but only a subcomponent of user experience design. Usability focuses on how easy it is to use and learn a website with which users can accomplish specific tasks. It can sometimes become perceptible that it is an attribute of the user interface.

UX design, conversely, encompasses the overall user experience, which involves various factors and considerations, including user needs, goals, perceptions, and potential behavior toward website usage. Usability testing is one of the essential methods of measuring a website's usability, but it's not the only option when designing for user experience. Additional elements influencing user experience design include structure, visual design, content strategy, accessibility, and information architecture.

Importance of Website Usability

Website usability is a crucial part of the design and development process, directly affecting the overall user experience and success. You can build a super visually attractive website with lots of web animations and complex features. Still, if people leave immediately because they don't understand how your website works or how to navigate to your site quickly, all of your design efforts will go to waste.

Below are some common reasons why website usability should be taken seriously when designing and building websites:

User satisfaction

Applying website usability principles ensures that your website is easy to use, meets the user's needs and goals, and provides a positive user experience.

User Engagement

A website that is easy to navigate and use will more likely engage, share your website contents, and do some targeted actions such as purchase or subscription, eventually keeping them from returning.

Enhanced Conversion

Website usability can give a positive user experience, leading to improved conversion rates. When a website is easy to use, users are more likely to complete more purchase processes which can result in higher sales and revenue.

Competitive Advantage

Applying website usability principles to your design process can make your website more competitive than another website as it understands what the user needs and can accommodate or complete the user's tasks quickly and efficiently.

Key Principles of Website Usability

Web usability has five key principles for creating an easy-to-use, efficient, and user friendly website. Integrating these web usability principles into your design can lead to a great user experience, increased user engagement, and improved business results.

1. Availability

Availability refers to how easy it is to access your website by the users. Ensuring that your website is always up and running and accessible on various channels, screen size, devices, and platforms can massively affect your website's overall online success. This can also involve creating mobile site version users of your website to accommodate smartphone and providing screen readers for visually impaired users to cover more potential audiences.

2. Clarity

This principle refers to how clear, easy to understand and read your website is, even for first-time visitors. This includes using direct and concise content and organizing or categorizing information according to usage or relevancy in an intuitive manner.

3. Recognition

This principle describes the learning experience of the users when visiting your website. This includes using simple, intuitive navigation and text labels to help users recognize and locate what they are looking for and complete their desired actions on the website without spending too much time assessing how to go through each web page or return to the homepage.

4. Credibility

Credibility is the crucial factor influencing the user's trust in a website's content, products, or services. An attractive web design with complex animation and functionalities doesn't guarantee the user's trust. Using high-quality, precise, relevant, and up-to-date information while integrating trust signals such as real users reviews, security badges, and social media proof can help your website boost trust and credibility score in the digital space.

5. Relevance

Relevance is one of the most sophisticated usability issues since it will determine whether the user will engage with your website. When users visit your website for the first time, they should find the content valuable and meaningful to accomplish specific goals, such as finding information, completing a task, or making a purchase within your website.

Otherwise, if the user sees the content as irrelevant, they are more likely to leave and abandon your website, which can affect your website's bounce rate and other SEO metrics. Creating relevant, up-to-date, and engaging content with the specific target audience or demographics can save you many costly mistakes due to insignificant content.

Guidelines and Best Practices for Website Usability

Usability can help web professionals deliver efficient designs and functionality more effectively. By utilizing preeminent usability processes on all interfaces, visual design, and functionality, you can reduce the need and time spent by the users thinking about how they should interact with the website and what their expectations are for its functionalities.

For the website to be usable, usability best practices must be integrated throughout the design and development lifecycle. Websites that could be more user friendly will more likely get abandoned by site visitors and go elsewhere. This is why web usability must first be implemented at the beginning of the design phase and progressively to the development phase. This will ensure your website is accessible, easy to use, relevant, and efficient to your target audience. Website usability testing can check your website for what is going wrong and what needs to be done to fix it before it produces costly mistakes.

Below are some guidelines and best practices for web usability that you need to consider when designing and developing website

Keep it simple

While the overall website's visual design is vital to attract visitors, users don't always have the "eye" for what is good design and what is not. Most users want to get relevant information or perform specific actions based on their needs and goals from visiting your website. Using simple and straightforward language in your content will help users accomplish their goals on your website quickly and easily.

Organize Content

Organizing content can be done in many ways, categorically, alphabetically, by subject, genre, and so on. While there is no definite way to manage your content as it depends on your niche, products, or services, organizing content appropriate to a particular set of target audiences and usage is essential.

Use Proper Labels

Clear and concise labels, titles, and call to action on your website can improve usability as they provide precise information or subject. Users often recognize titles, headings, call to action, and labels before going through deeper content such as the body text and media. This will ensure that your users can easily navigate your website's content and get their desired information as quickly as possible.

Build intuitive navigation

Creating an intuitive navigation system for your website is essential, as links are the tickets to your other web pages or content. Users should be able to quickly move from point A to point B without spending too much time figuring out what links they are clicking to. Keeping structured navigation appropriate for the top, footer, and sidebar navigation can provide optimum user experience and user control without digging too deep into your web pages. Lastly, adding a search field or search function to your website can help users search for specific keywords about your niche and quickly get results without scanning too much content.

Use mobile-first approach

With more and more users using mobile devices to visit websites and applications, optimizing your website for mobile viewing is important. According to Statista, 59.16% of global audiences visit websites through smartphones (excluding tablets). This means having a mobile-optimized website can reach more target audiences beyond regular desktop users.

Ensure fast loading

Optimizing your website for speed can streamline the browsing process of your users when viewing your website. Slow page speed can frustrate the users and will likely lead to a high bounce rate, affecting your overall website credibility. Minifying website resources such as code files, images, and other forms of media can help your website load faster.

Ensure accessibility

Website access is a very crucial part of web usability. Ensuring your website is accessible to anyone, including people with disabilities, using appropriate design elements, and adhering to accessibility guidelines, can reduce the limitations that influence users' browsing experience regardless of circumstances.

Perform usability test

Website usability testing evaluates the website's ease of use and can help identify areas for improvement. A website usability test should be covered throughout the design and development process to become more effective and ensure website efficiency and consistency.

Types of Web Usability Testing Methods

Various types of web usability testing methods can be used to evaluate a website's effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction based on the target audience and metrics.

In-House Usability Testing

This usability test method is conducted in person or on-site. This involves collecting user feedback through surveys and questionnaires managed and observed by researchers, who give instructions to gather information about their satisfaction with the website, their perception of its usability, and suggestions for improvements.

Remote Usability Testing

This usability testing method involves user testing in a remote location via the internet through screen sharing, video conferencing, or other remote collaboration tools. In this usability testing, participants stay inside their environment while being instructed by a tester or personnel managing the whole testing process. This also involves observing the user and monitoring their experience during and after the test.

Guerilla Testing

Also known as hallway usability testing or guerilla user research. This method involves user testing through informal feedback collection setup by presenting websites, products or services to random users in an impromptu, ad hoc manner, typically in public places such as parks, cafes, or public spaces. Unlike the other formal usability testing methods conducted in a moderated environment with a pre-selected group of participants, guerrilla testing is often done randomly, with testers approaching people on the street or in public spaces and asking them to provide feedback on a product or service.

Eye Tracking Testing

Image from Charming Robot

This usability testing method involves monitoring users' eye movements as they interact with the website to identify which areas of the website attract users most and which areas they may overlook.

Card Sorting

This method involves presenting virtual cards that describe the website content, which users organize and categorize in a way that makes sense to them. After that, the user is expected to provide insight into how they perceive and navigate the website. This method can help the designers and developers in decision-making in the visual hierarchy and content flow.

Tree Testing

This usability method allows the tester to evaluate the hierarchy and findability of subjects or titles within a website. In this method, users will navigate a text-only version of the website's navigation structure to discover potential usability issues and suggest changes. This method is a crucial part of the user research plan and is beneficial for the usability improvement.


Website usability has been a topic of discussion in the design field due to its benefits on overall website success. It is an essential aspect of creating a successful website that is intuitive and efficient for users. As such, websites must be designed with the user in mind to ensure they are practical and efficient.

Once the website usability testing is done, compiling all the necessary information, analyzing the data, and quickly taking the best possible action to solve usability issues are highly recommended.

Websites with good usability are more likely to achieve their goals, such as increasing traffic, conversions, and user engagement.