Usability

2.1 User is in control of their interactions with the site

This is the main guiding principle of this section of the audit – and indeed, of any usability advice we give. It’s a critical principle of site navigation and of building trust that the person who’s using your site constantly has control of what they’re seeing and where their browser goes next.

2.2 Design is uncluttered and easy to read

It should be easy to understand what’s going on on your site, and what information you’re providing. Problems here include having too many elements pop up at once, or just trying to relay too much information.

2.3 Design is consistent across all pages

Shapes, colors, fonts and interactions should be consistent as your visitor navigates the site. Inconsistency can confuse users and, in extreme cases, make them wonder if they’re still in the right place.

2.4 Users don't have to wait for content to render

Users shouldn’t have to wait to start reading your site. Typically, delays are caused by slow internet connections, but other delay causes include problems with loading fonts or images, slow hosting, or popups or other modals that block content and must be dismissed before your user can see your site.

2.5 Speed best practices are followed

Speed is a feature. In addition to specific things Google might recommend, there are a set of best practices you can follow – like caching, minification, and compression – that are easy to turn on in most CMSes.

2.6 Responsive content functions well on all platforms and screen sizes

The site should follow modern responsive (or better yet, mobile-first) design and development practices so that it looks great everywhere.

2.7 Site presents normally at different zoom levels

The site should follow modern responsive (or better yet, mobile-first) design and development practices so that it looks great everywhere.

2.8 Carousels are avoided

Carousels are another way in which visitors lose control of what they’re seeing on your site. Carousels are useful for solving disagreements about what content should be featured, but in general, choose the most appropriate offer to show your visitor. (You can also use simple personalization with a little JavaScript – show one banner to new users, and another to returning, for example.)

2.9 Additional widgets are kept to a minimum

There are so many things you can put on your landing pages – chat, cookie notices, social share links, newsletter signup popups, and so on. Each one of these has a cost, as these widgets distract your user and slows down their experience with your site. Sometimes that cost is worth paying, but try to keep to as few additional widgets as possible.

2.10 Any animation used is unobtrusive

Complex animations can be difficult to maintain, and also confusing for users. If you use animations, keep them subtle and ensure they’re additive to your user’s experience.

2.11 Interactive site elements function in predictable, conventional ways

Menus and buttons are not good places to innovate. Dropdowns and other interactive elements should work in a way that the user immediately understands.

2.12 If Accelerated Mobile Pages are implemented, they do not have errors

Accelerated Mobile Pages are Google’s answer to site speed issues – an AMP page is specially built for speed, follows strict rules, and is served directly by Google. The effort to implement and maintain AMP pages is high, and we don’t recommend them for most companies, but if they are implemented, ensure there are no errors. Google Search Console provides a report that can show you whether there are any.

2.13 Live chat is available and meaningful

Live chat is becoming increasingly popular, and can significantly enhance a user’s experience on your site. If you implement live chat, ideally you should customize the chat prompt for the visitor or the content that they’re looking at.

2.14 Flash is not used

Flash is no longer supported by Adobe or most web browsers. It’s unlikely that Flash is present on your site, but old versions of some analytics and content tools do still use it.

2.15 Page copy is visible without JavaScript

Visitors without JavaScript are rare, but if your site doesn’t show any content without JavaScript, that can indicate issues with rendering or site speed.

2.16 Transcripts or captions are provided for videos

Transcripts of audio content can dramatically improve the user experience for users who can’t or don’t want to watch your video. This does include people with vision problems, but it can also include people who are just looking for a specific piece of information or would prefer to skim a transcript for some other reason. Transcripts also help search engines understand what your content is about.

2.17 ARIA landmarks and labels are used

ARIA attributes are important for assistive technologies to be able to easily parse your page. See Yale’s web accessibility checklist for more details on this and related issues.

2.18 Audio does not play automatically

Any auto-playing video should start muted.

2.19 Text and colors have a sufficient contrast ratio

This is part of making sure that your site is easy to read and navigate. This is important for visitors with sight problems, but also for people who are navigating your site on their phones, in low light, and so on.

2.20 Items do not automatically blink, scroll, or update

In keeping with the idea of letting visitors stay in control of their experience, you should avoid having items automatically change while the visitor is looking at the site.

2.21 The purpose of each link can be determined from link text alone

Using phrases like “click here” for links makes those links harder to understand and interpret – and that’s true for web crawlers, too.

2.22 Clickable (tappable) elements are sized and spaced appropriately on mobile

If tap targets are too small on your site, it can be hard for users to activate them, especially for users with less control over their hand movements. And if they’re too close together, it can be harder for users to scroll.

2.23 Site has been user-tested

User-testing your site is cheap, fairly straightforward, and gives you insight into what your visitors are actually thinking when they land on your site. For more information, we’ve written up some good questions to ask in user tests.

2.24 Site is navigable with a keyboard only

Certain users will use a keyboard only to navigate your site; you should enable this. A Skip Navigation link can be helpful for these users as well.