Saturday, August 19, 2006

Usability is in the detail

UI considerations for a banking site ...

"The usability, and also the accessibility, of a system can be greatly improved by small changes to the detail of the user interface. I have realised this when comparing my response to very similar looking websites. In particular I use the Royal Bank of Scotland on-line personal digital banking service and some of the details of design make my experience attractive and stress free. Based on examples from this site I have tried to create some general examples of good practice.

An on-line banking system is about putting information in and getting limited amounts of information out. It requires filling out forms of varying complexity and so is a keyboard-intensive type of activity and my preference in this environment is to keep my hands on the keyboard and not to have to use the mouse. For me this improves the user experience, however for people with visual or motor impairments it may mean the difference between a site that is practical to use and one that is just too hard.

So what details make this easier for me?

Logging on
The first screen is obviously a log on screen, which requires a userid to be typed in. Where should the cursor be when I first open this page? In the entry field of course; but so many sites have the cursor in its default position at the top left of the screen and before you enter any information you either have to cursor through various menu items or use the mouse.

... Navigation
Navigating around a well structured website is normally easy with a mouse, you just click on the required link. Navigating without a mouse can be much more tedious as the main method is to use the tab key. The tab key takes you from one link to the next, unfortunately in nearly all sites the actually content of the page is at the end of the tab order. Some sites have added help for screen readers by having the first links hidden (so they do not appear on the screen) but they do get read aloud by the reader. These links say things such as ‘skip to menus’ or ‘skip to content’ so the blind user can skip straight to what they need to use. If you are a savvy user who can read the links in the status bar you can work out that this is happening and take advantage of the short cuts but it is a bit hit and miss. The RBS site has a better answer—if you tab to these links a pop up window tells you what it does so that it becomes easily usable by people who can see."   (Continued via IT-Analysis.com)   [Usability Resources]

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