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Usability

There are many buzz words you will hear when talking about web design. Among these you may hear 'Usability', 'User Experience' or 'is it responsive?'. You may know what some or all of these mean or refer to, you my not. So we thought it best to write a short piece about how we can help with this. Firstly, we don't have any airs, graces or snobbery about using any particular term over another. If you prefer a User Journey over an Experience Architecture, that's fine with us. Interface design This covers all aspects of how a human interacts with a webpage or software. Either through what device or browser they are viewing; how they themselves can view it though limits in technology or disability. Then going further and using the design of the site to teach and guide the user creating the idea of intuitiveness. 'Usability' may be the term that generates a million articles and a thousand seminars and lots and lots of consultancy for agencies, but for Arc it is simple; your site is usable by anyone and everyone at all times. Sounds easy of course, but behind the single word topic is a highly complex combination of many types of interface design, user research and UX all depending on what your software needs to achieve.

There are many components that make up the usability. But one aspect of it, is the idea of an 'intuitive site'. This takes in many little details and in effect is really about a user judging your design choices either consciously or unconsciously. If a user says your site is 'intuitive', then you have correctly placed things like toolbar buttons where the user thought they should be or you counter-intuitively you did not include things you perhaps wanted to. In other words content has been placed on the page in the menu where the user thought they should find it or the user has gone through a complex process with no fuss, frustration or interruption.

often all this is subjective, as everyone is different and it relies on lots of experience to get right as one persons intuitive site is another's mess of webpages. The trick is to use known conventions where possible, don't try and invent the wheel. And, where something is new or unique to your site, use your best judgement and if possible user research. If 80% of your users expect something to work a particular way, that is the way it should be. Just remember you can't please everyone and by reaching for that perfect 100% approval, you will either never reach it, or worse, ruin your site. 

The reality is that usability is the one part of web design that stands alone as an art, not a science. If you design for everyone, you end up designing for no-one and it comes down to a thousand little details and choices!

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