Despite this emphasis, many websites seem to ignore issues of usability, content accessibility and universal design. This report aims at analyzing the features that form the fundamental backbone of a good website for the end users. A case study is discussed in further sections that portray the web usability features associated with Amazon.com.
Unless a website meets the need of the intended users, it will not meet the needs of the organization providing the website. An efficient website should be user centric and needs to continuously improvise based on the evolving user requirements.
It is essential to define business objectives, usability goals and intended context of use well in advance (Macleod, 1994). In this context business objectives of a site include answers to crucial questions such as such, what are the main purposes of the website, who are the websites target audience, success factors, evaluation criteria and budget. The websites contexts of use include information such as important user groups, frequency of visits, user's past experience and expertise, socio-cultural issues, user's needs and client side technical information. Once this Meta information is collected and analyzed a website design should proceed. Usability can be measured in terms of effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction (Hix & Hartson, 1993: ISO 9241-11, 1998: Jordon, 1998).
Effectiveness: It can be measured by determining if the website users can actually accomplish their requirements at hand. Requirements at this context can range from a simple task such as finding information to complex and sensitive activities such as purchasing a product. According to O'Connor's research, return visits to a site is directionally proportional to is effectiveness (O'Connor, 2001).
Efficiency: While effectiveness deals with the accomplishment of a task, efficiency on the other hand looks at the resources expended in order to achieve the task. Although resources can be seen in multiple perspectives, the most critical resource is time. System can be considered to be efficient if it allows the users to execute their tasks in reasonable amount of time.
Satisfaction: The essential feature of impressing the customers involves the amount of satisfaction a particular website can provide to the users. The overall experience that involves the color contrast, dynamic features, availability of appropriate information, accuracy of search play crucial role in the satisfaction rate of users.
Some of the essential features a web site should consider are enlisted in the following section.
Good Website Structure: Website information has to be structured well so that it is meaningful to the user. Taking into consideration that people rarely read web pages word by word, features such as bulleted lists, highlights and annotations should be provided where necessary (UseIt.com, 2007).
Easy Navigation: The aim of easy navigation is to show users where they currently are and a set of possible locations as to where they can go. Links must be consistent and the easiest way to allow navigation is by having self explanatory link (UseIt.com, 2006).
Telling users what to expect: In order to