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Website usability critical to the success of portals

United Arab Emirates: Tuesday, December 24 - 2002 @ 13:46

Dubai e-Government highlighted the significance of the usability factor of government websites at the seminar organized by Afflatus Inc., a website usability analysis company, in partnership with Dubai e-Government. The usability factor plays a key role in ascertaining the success of websites, as it determines the quality of the user’s experience while navigating and interacting with a website.

The seminar, attended by over 100 representatives from various government departments, focused on usability fundamentals and the dominant challenges experienced by most government websites offering e-Services. In addition, it also covered a number of important topics such as e-Government & Services Website Usability, Usability Fundamentals and Information Architecture Analysis and Website Design Guidelines.

“The success of a website depends extensively on the ease and efficiency with which a user can access information and interact with it. This is particularly true of government websites where the focus should be on providing users with the most efficient interface to meet their specific information needs,” said Al Shair. “Clear, consistent and easily navigable websites that are flexible without creating confusing results are the ideal answers and in order to devise this, web developers and usability analysts need to work together to leverage their joint expertise.”

“Dubai e-Government is always on the lookout for opportunities to improve and enhance the quality of the government websites and hence the need for such a seminar. We are trying to take extensive precautions to ensure that the Dubai e-Government portal www.dubai.ae avoids the pitfalls of poor usability and presents to its customers a well-designed website,” he added.

Recounting Dubai e-Government’s experiences and goals, Al Shair said: “e-governance has become an essential component of today’s web-ruled world. No country can afford to ignore e-Governance and citizens would certainly prefer to use high tech modes of public transaction when the whole world is moving towards automation. Dubai was among the first governments in the region to recognize the crucial importance of e-Government and therefore laid down a proper framework to build an e-Government interface complete with usability analysis carried out from time to time. Guided by the primary goal of easing the lives of community and businesses by creating a one-stop portal, Dubai e-Government is now in the advanced stages of providing an integrated, interactive and online transaction-ready services across the board.”

“Most websites that can be seen today are weak on usability because they have often been designed by web developers who work as artists, often failing to look at the website from the users’ point of view,” said Adnan Al Obathani, Managing Director, Afflatus Inc. “Good usability means giving users a better experience with your website. In today’s highly dynamic web environment, organizations especially government ones need to focus on having an online presence that is meticulously crafted, keeping users’ requirements in mind. It is only then that a web presence can bring higher revenue, customer loyalty and trust, satisfied visitors and higher credibility in the market place.”

“Website usability analysis is a necessity and not a luxury in today’s congested web-world,” added Obathani. “What a usability analyst does is research the audience types, study the type of information they would look for and design the architecture which gives the best way to link and access it. The analyst also develops a set of rules for each particular site, deciding issues such as allocation of space, the size of various elements on the page, the positioning of these elements and critical information on the page, the colour schemes and style sheets to be used. Afflatus is proud to encourage website owners in launching a new generation of unique Internet sites based on quality user experience,” he added.

Saif Al Shaali, Chief Information Officer, Afflatus Inc., who presented a detailed analysis of various government websites said: “Globally, there are serious deficiencies in website usability. Findings by accredited research companies such as Forrester Research and NNGroup show that 90 per cent of websites rank poor in usability. Another study concludes that websites show just 51 per cent compliance with simple web development rules. Against such a scenario, website usability is critical because it relates to user experiences and focuses on how the site functions. Quite often, website designers do an excellent job technically but are unable to look at the usability from a user’s point of view. As result, the site is unable to serve the purpose for which it was originally designed. Increasing the usability of a website however can make a significant difference. A Stanford University research indicates increasing usability by one per cent increases traffic on the website by 1.66 per cent. When IBM redesigned their site to be more user centric, sales from the site increased correspondingly by 400 per cent.”

“Our research has shown that website usability analysis helps to revitalize a website and make it people-friendly which in turn increases the possibly of a website’s success. Using this analysis, we can recommend changes which ensure that it is easy to access desired information or navigate through a website,” he added.

The seminar showed how website usability analysts make a real difference to a weak site, by examining all aspects from the homepage down to the whole site. Afflatus Inc. is one of the pioneers in the field, with expertise in website and interface analysis and design, information architecture analysis, and extensive research with the help of professors and graduates from one of the highest–ranked universities in the USA in the field of Information Systems.

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Tuesday, December 24- 2002 @ 13:46 UAE local time (GMT+4) Replication or redistribution in whole or in part is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Mediaquest FZ LLC.

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