How to Improve Site Usability with jQuery?

Posted on September 21, 2011 by

Developers often look for ways to make their websites more usable, whether it is figuring out how to display messages properly via CSS or tweaking the HTML codes to benefit the users. However, rarely they bring the thought processes into jQuery-based and other JavaScript-based elements. You should enhance user experience in your website by improving the usability of existing jQuery events. These are a few common methods:

Always inform the users

jQuery events are often triggered by users actions, whether it’s posting forms, loading new content or simply changing the item presentation. Such events can be triggered through simple mouse click from a user. While as developers and designers we always know that things are working properly, but without adequate visual cues, normal users can be left guessing. If users click certain web elements and nothing seem to happen, they might think that they are doing something wrong or the page is malfunctioning. So, it’s necessary to display a progress bar or at least a message, this way users can be assured that things are working and they will get the result shortly.

Always test the code

During the testing process, it’s important for the development team to make sure the interactive elements to work properly across multiple browsers. Unfortunately, developers don’t test web elements like normal users would. Often, they would be astonished with how differently normal users navigate the website. People vary widely in their usage set-ups and behaviors, so you should also test your website with different set-ups and in different ways. A good tester must be motivated to find ways to break the JavaScript code, because it could be the only way to find elusive bugs. The more bugs you find, the more stable your website will be. When people come across a design or structural element that doesn’t work correctly or appears to be broken, they may lose trust in your website as a whole.

Keep it simple

The last thing you want is to have a bunch of confused users. Using too many interaction elements can leave users in the dark, as they can’t make a decision or don’t know how to find what they need. When developing a website, you should use the smallest number of controls needed to achieve a goal. You can deliver a more effective user experience by restricting the choice. Some websites incorporate too much scrolling navigation and links than the actual content. This will confuse users because they are bombarded with irrelevant information. New visitors might feel unsure where to go, what to do or whether they miss essential information.

Speed is not everything

Developers often try to help users quickly complete their tasks by optimizing their codes to load webpages faster. However, there are cases where slowing things down can improve the website usability. For examples, animations that rotate images or messages can be set too fast. You shouldn’t rush your users; try to give them the opportunity to take everything in. People should be able to read important information before the rotation is completed. Whether you use jQuery code or a plugin to generate an effect, users should be able to adjust the animation speed. In most cases, you can use buttons labeled with SLOW or FAST. If you want to be more exact with the timing, you can use a dial that specify time in milliseconds such as ‘500’ or ‘1000’.

Use tabs smartly

If you want to improve the usability of your site, smart tabbing deserves a mention nonetheless. Web designers often use tabs to show and hide contents; however a tab should still be prominent and describes its content clearly. Tabs allow for higher creativity and they are a great space-saver. But when used improperly, your visitors may overlook potentially important contents. By making your tabs prominent, you can help users find information they need. Also by using descriptive labels on tab, you can help users to determine the content of a tab without clicking it. Prominent tabs can save time and space, draw attention and make sure users get all the information they need.

Provide enough control

Many websites are consisted of one page with vertical or horizontal smooth scrolling. There is one basic control in website that should always be available. People who work with a webpage that extends beyond the fold often use the scroll bar or the mouse to navigate down. Removing the ability to scroll just shows how you can take away a basic browsing functionality and thus impair the user experience. You should let people in control of their browsing experience and if you have long or wide webpages, try to make sure people can scroll using many methods including with mouse, scroll bar and keyboard navigations.  You should always give your visitors the option to navigate the site. When working with your website design, make sure that your decision won’t impede any basic functionality and users can react accordingly.

Improve form validation

You can use jQuery to improve form validation; it can be triggered by focusing off a field or clicking the “Submit” button. However, you shouldn’t replace server-side validation entirely with JavaScript form validation. These two significant benefits of jQuery form validation:

  • * Users don’t have to wait too long for a webpage to reload, when they suspect that they’ve made a mistake. Also, you shouldn’t let the webpage to reload before the error notification is displayed, so users can always be informed.
  • * You can highlight errors effectively and easily. For example by using animations to draw people attention or change the background color of relevant inputs,

Don’t let animations stack

One benefit of jQuery is to give you the opportunity to enhance a website design using animations. This includes moving elements, changing colors and fading effects. For example, you can use jQuery animation to de-clutter the interface or; hide or display certain information (such as image captions). However, many web designers find that such animations may stack very easily. When a webpage has plenty of thumbnails and users hovers the mouse pointers quickly over several, the animations could drag behind although users have stopped moving the pointer.

Use as few animations as possible

Because you can implement JavaScript functions very easily with jQuery, many get carried way. Some websites end up with too many animations than needed and causing disruptions. Some developers use jQuery to load images while visitors scroll down the webpage, thus allowing people to access the contents quickly and making the webpages load faster. While it works well for people with slow Internet connection, there are still some drawbacks. For example, visitors can be really distracted with the tied-in animations. The fade-in animations can break the flow when visitors scroll down the page.

The growing popularity of jQuery brings to light its wide range of possibilities. Things that have been discussed in this article are only a few of trends in the interactive design. As they would with design elements, developers should consider whether their decisions will affect visitors. Elements should be easy to use, processes should be easy to understand and users should react properly when something goes wrong. These considerations can help iron out glitches in a website, giving visitors much better user experience and interactive design.

About: This Article was Contributed by Raja. He is a Web Hosting industry watcher and writes regularly on Dedicated Hosting Reviews and Reseller Hosting Reviews.

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