Top Five Usability Tools

Usability is one of my favorite subjects, because it’s so often ignored yet it’s so utterly necessary to the success of any online project. If someone doesn’t understand how to use your website, what use is it? Your web projects have got to be easy, easy, easy for visitors to use.

You should be thinking about user-friendly design from day one, but you should also be continually refining what you’ve got. There are numerous online tools out there you can use to help you evaluate the usability success of your web projects, but here are five I recommend for learning more about how people use your site. You can also check out previous postings on usability.

  1. SUS – A quick and dirty usability scale (Word doc). One of the best ways of finding out how people feel about your web project is to simply ask them. This template from the website is a great place to start when thinking about questions. You can either distribute this document or turn to a tool like SurveyMonkey or Zoomerang to ask for feedback on your site.
  2. Color Contrast Analyzer Juicy Studio. Many more people than you probably think have trouble picking up all colors, maybe as many as one in 10. Make sure your design has high contrast colors – no black on blue or yellow on white. Try a tool like Color Contrast Analyzer Color Analysis to choose the right colors for your web site.
  3. We all become used to looking at websites on our own computer screens, but they’re not all set at the same resolution. It’s a good idea to test your site on various browser sizes so you can see how it shows up for others. This site helps you do it easily.
  4. BrowserCam. This tool lets you see what your site looks like if you’re viewing it from a Mac, PC, Blackberry or any number of other operating systems or browsers like IE or Firefox. Extremely useful to view your site through this before you launch.
  5. StomperNet Scrutinizer. Organizations with big bucks have the money to spend on eye tracking programs, where they actually record where people look on a webpage and are able to figure out what people are seeing or aren’t seeing. StomperScrutinizer is the poor man’s alternative, which is a browser that tracks the mouse and forces the eye to look at the location of the mouse.
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