Web Usability & Website Optimization

Web Usability and SEO
A blog on » Web Usability   » Website Accessibility   » Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Web Developers need to look beyond the BODY tags

Everyone in web development field use Editors to program web pages and why not, editors save huge development time. Editors are like credit cards, they make our life easier but if you don’t use them with care they can prove harmful. They come with plenty of good features to simplify the developers/designers work.
For example most of the web developers use HTML editors like Frontpage or Dreamweaver, that facilitates the programmer with readymade page where the programmer codes only those things which the end user is going to see inside the page. Most of the programmers do not bother about anything else but just inside of the “BODY” tags. This habit leaves the pages with some undefined tags that are auto-created by the editor, this includes Title tags, Meta tags and other, depending on what editor you use to ease your programming efforts.
These tags and the description inside them are not important to web developers because they do not affect the working/operation of the website but they surely affect the website’s ranking on the search engines. What appear on search engine result pages are the TITLE and description about the page, now imagine a search result that includes a website with “Untitled Document” or “New Page 1” as the title of the website, will you click on it?
Surprisingly there are millions of web pages on the www with such undefined tags. To check, copy and search following text strings on Google, these text strings have been taken from commonly used editors like Frontpage and Dreamweaver:

allintitle:New Page 1
allintitle:untitled document
allintitle:meta name="GENERATOR" content="Microsoft FrontPage 4.0"
allintitle:content="text/html; charset=windows-1252"

and see the result number at top right that says “Results 1 - 10 of about xxx”, the xxx is the number of total matches found for the search string, this will give you an idea of how many such pages are there on the web. You can also use “allintitle:title text” (no quotes and replace ‘title text’ with the text in title tags) command in google to search for the pages that were built using other editors. Open any editor, start new HTML page, copy the text between TITLE tags, if any and use above search command to search for the pages that were programmed and uploaded without changing the title text.
Some of the results may be for explaining how to use these tags but the others are just there because the web developers did not look at them while designing the pages.
Out of all these tags TITLE tag is very important as it is intended to tell the user the theme of the page; it also serves as crucial factor for search engines to rank your web page. Other tags like META DESCRIPTION, META KEYWORDS are not that important because user can’t see them unless he goes in to check the source code, but yes you can’t ignore them too, they are still counted by some search engines while ranking the web pages.

Conclusion: Programmers and Designers should get out of the BODY shell and give little importance to other tags, because they can be a reason for good traffic.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Web Usability Blooper: Usability Training Company website

I came across this website recently, this company conducts Usability Training courses for IT professionals in my own city - Pune, India. Surprisingly the website itself lacks in basic web usability. There is no title to this page, which is very important for users as well as the search engines. If this page had a good title, it would rank higher for the relevant keywords in all search engines, the current title "Untitled Document" makes no sense. Beside this, there is no Bread/Crumb navigation implementation on the site, Logo has no link(you can't click the logo to go to Home Page), and no Site Map.
On the top of all, when you try to validate the site for basic HTML
validations, W3C's HTML Validation service gives this result: Failed validation, 17 errors.

Just wondering what could be the quality of their Usability Training courses ;)
Well I will still visit them and find out what they have to offer as a part of their training course in HCI and Usability Engineering.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Web Usability, HCI Resources

Gary Perlman is doing a great job by maintaining a website with loads of useful resources on Web Usability, HCI- Human Computer Interaction. A complete reference guide: HCI Bibliography

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Usability errors in web forms

You must have seen such forms on many websites.
If you look at this form closely you will find the usability
problem in it, the submit button name: "Edit Profile" and I am pretty sure you know what it should have been. No points for guessing "Update Profile" :)
If the Edit functionality provides the user to update details then obviously its name should be "Update Profile".
I have seen such form on a website with PR=9, no wonder the website is very popular. If such website with millions of registered users, can make usability mistakes then just imagine how many websites on www may have such usability errors.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Future products are still being developed from Management’s point of view

Recently I was analyzing (Usabilty Testing) an e Learning Management System’s requirement documents and prototype, the development for which was going to start in few days and the product is supposed to hit the market by March 2006.
To my surprise the requirement documents showed no end user interest but vision was how the management/owner want to see it. The overview of the documents has a line somewhere which reads as “This LMS (Learning Management System) will be very powerful and user friendly” and from the rest of the documents and proto type it was very clear to me that the document creators did not take users actions into consideration.
To provide an example, there was functionality in Administrator module by which the management can change the theme of the system. So any time the Management doesn’t like the color of the templates, they can just use it to change the theme of the system forcing users to see the color that management likes.
This is same as a Manager of a company changes some employees sitting arrangement as and when he likes, the employee may get frustrated because of these unexpected changes but the Manager won’t care about it.
Thanks to the client who agreed to have everyone personalize the theme and not force them to go with what management likes.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Web Usability & website Promotion (SEO) - what’s the relation?

Is there a relation between Web Usability and search engine optimization?
Does this blog puzzled you as the title reads web usability and website promotion?
Is there any interconnection?
Yes, Web Usability and search engine optimization and web promotion are interlinked. By Web Usability we mean good Content, easy Navigation, easy Accessibility, less Downloading Time, Systematic Arrangement, etc more simply it means Usable website. If a website incorporates all these features any visitor will find it userfriendly and so does the search engines. Think about Search Engine as a visitor. If it could download the page in very less time, could find keyword stuffed good content, could easily navigate throughout the site, then it will give more priority to such website compared to similar themed websites which lacks in user friendliness*. A user
would like to revisit a good user friendly site often so does any search engine because both likes such site.
So if you want your website to be search engine friendly then first you should make it User friendly, follow the basic Web Usability concepts and then promote it, get links from other sites to your site so that it is easily reachable too.
Good Web Usability is the foundation of Search engine optimization or web promotion.
* Above comparison is based on assumption that websites in discussion have same backlinks (Links from external websites).

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Avoid "Best viewed in... " lines on web pages

I have read this line on many websites: "Best viewed in 1024 X 768 or higher resolution" and the surprising part is that many Website Designing Company Portfolio web pages have these kind of lines on it.
In my opinion its not at all a useful hint to users rather its a synonym for poor design practices.
Such lines makes the user feel that such website is not useful to a him/her in anyway if they are using old monitors that does support resolutions upto 800 X 600 and not higher.

Mention the file Size - Important

If your website has some kind of documents for the users and want them to download or read it online, then its very good idea to show the actual size of the document beside its download/open link.
eg. Download Company Profile (File - type: .pdf, size:34KB)
View Analysis Report (File - type: .doc, size:1.8KB)
Why this is important?
1. If the user is on dial-up connection, he/she will be well aware of the download time the document is going to take.
2. If the file is big in size and the Internet connection is slow, the user may leave the site for temporary and try it from somewhere else or atleast try to download/view it some other time.