Usability guidelines – are they the 'right' answer?
We’re often asked about how to get a website ‘right’, or what is the ‘right’ way to display a product page for example. Our clients want to know what the best practice is, what guidelines and standards to conform to, what other sites are doing and so on. Understandably, everyone is very anxious about getting it right, but looking good for investors or designers is not the same as looking good in the eyes of an end user or customer.
In our opinion, guidelines and best practices can be useful to help make quick decisions during design but ultimately a guideline or statement of best practice is only a generic principle that worked for someone else at some time in the past. It may not be right for your users, on your website, at this moment in time.
Most of us are worried about getting it wrong. Ultimately though, getting it right is about what works for your website users. The only way to really get it right is to test the site with real users to understand what works and what does not. Getting it right for your users is far more important than adhering to a guideline.
Do you test your site with users or rely on guidelines instead?
Related service: Usability Testing
About Damian Rees
Damian has worked as a usability and user experience consultant for over 13 years. He has worked in senior roles within companies like the BBC and National Air Traffic Services where he has researched and designed for users in a variety of different contexts including web applications, voice recognition, and air traffic control interfaces. Follow Damian on twitter @damianrees