User Experience, Usability, and Accessibility: An Introduction

The terms accessibility, usability, and user experience are common terms in the world of digital marketing and web design, but also common sources of confusion. Although often used interchangeably, they are unique ideas that contribute in their own ways to online success. But what exactly is the difference between the three?

User Experience: Building an Online Reputation

User experience, or UX, is an all-encompassing term for the emotions and opinions of an individual towards a website or application. Creating a positive user experience is key to building a repeat customer base online. UX includes almost every component of a website including; navigation, aesthetics, quality of information, page speed, and even pricing.

User experience occurs on an individual level: two users of the same website can have a completely different experience. This doesn’t mean that a good user experience can’t be created, but rather that creating a great user experience requires a deep understanding of the desired customer base.

Usability: Keeping it Simple

Usability is all about making things easy. Although it is an important part of user experience, its scope is much narrower. Creating a clear, intuitive, and useful website is the main goal.  A cohesive SEO and Paid Search strategy can generate significant traffic increases to your site, but without proper attention to usability, the site will struggle to turn those new visitors into valuable customers.

Many factors can affect a website’s usability; there is no single formula. Usability considerations for a blog are going to be very different from usability on an E-commerce site with thousands of products. That said, there are several general practices to improve web usability.

  • Make the most important pages and information prominent and easy to find
  • Implement straightforward navigation
  • Provide Clear, Concise, and accurate content
  • Eliminate broken links and pages
  • Maintain reasonable page loading times
  • Provide credibility through About Us pages, FAQs, and easy-to-access contact information
  • Follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

Accessibility: Equal participation for all

The World Wide Web was created to be a tool for all to use, and web accessibility is the modern continuation of this spirit.  The goal of accessibility is to allow people with disabilities to navigate, understand, and meaningfully interact with websites. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) provides in-depth standards for accessibility called the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. Just as usability is a vital part of UX, accessibility can be considered a core component of usability.

Web accessibility is not only essential for the millions of people in the United States and around the world who live with impairments, but provides benefits to all users and, at times, directly impacts SEO. For example, providing subtitles or a written transcript of a video makes the video accessible to those with hearing impairments, but also allows someone in a loud environment to access the content. Alternate image texts allow screen readers to provide information to those with vision impairments but are also used by Google to rank images and classify the content on a web page.

Impact On SEO: Indirect but Important

With the exception of page loading speed and some accessibility requirements, UX, usability, and accessibility are not direct search engine ranking factors. Despite that, improvements in these three areas can have a major positive impact on SEO. An accessible and usable website that caters to the user experience will have better user engagement and receive a higher number of backlinks. Intuitively, it makes sense: providing a better product means more people are going to use it and tell others about it. Google and other search engines give serious weight to backlinks and engagement when determining the quality and ranking of a website.

Improve UX, Usability, and Accessibility and Reap the Rewards

A digital marketing approach that considers user experience, usability, and accessibility and combines them with a strong SEO and/or Paid Search campaign is the recipe for online success. Talk to your digital marketing specialist about their approach to these three important aspects of your website and keep an eye out for future blog posts for more information.

Written by: Brandt Tharp, Digital Marketing Support Specialist, Ecreativeworks

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