Usability Principles

Don’t make users think. Write effectively. Test early and often.

Don't make users think

The purpose of your website should be obvious to your users.

Focus on eliminating moments when your users may stop and wonder whether a decision is correct. The best way to pinpoint those moments of confusion is to conduct a usability test. Learn how to test your site with our 5 steps to usability testing. 

Essential Resources: 

Write effectively

On websites, users scan, they do not read. 

Users are likely to read only 20% of words on a web page. Make those words count!

  • Use words your audience u​ses. Instead of “Please establish authentication” say “Log in”.
  • Avoid “Click here” links. Instead of “Click here to sign up” say “Sign up”.
  • Use clear headings
  • Use short sentences and paragraphs
  • Use bullets and numbered lists when appropriate
  • Remove unnecessary words. 


  • Challenge yourself by removing half the words on a page. Are you able to retain the essential information?
  • Try removing instructions. Your objective should be to eliminate instructions by making everything self-explanatory.
  • Test your content’s readability at You should aim for an 8th grade reading level for most websites (academic papers are about a 15-20 grade reading level).

Essential Resources: 

Additional Resources

Test early and often

If you want a usable site, you have to test it with your audience 

Why test

  • Because you know too much. Once you have worked on your site for a while, you already know exactly how it works. The only way to know if it is usable is by testing it with new users.
  • Because usability testing does not have to be expensive. You only need to test your site with 3-5 users to understand how to improve.

When to test

  • The best time to test is on the first day of planning your website. 
  • The second best time to test is now.

How to test