List of writing and content quality usability guidelines

  1. The site has compelling and unique content.
  2. Text is concise, with no needless instructions or welcome notes.
  3. Each content page begins with conclusions or implications and the text is written with an inverted pyramid style.
  4. Pages use bulleted and numbered lists in preference to narrative text.
  5. Lists are prefaced with a concise introduction (e.g. a word or phrase), helping users appreciate how the items are related to one another.
  6. The most important items in a list are placed at the top.
  7. Information is organised hierarchically, from the general to the specific, and the organisation is clear and logical.
  8. Content has been specifically created for the web (web pages do not comprise repurposed material from print publications such as brochures).
  9. Product pages contain the detail necessary to make a purchase, and users can zoom in on product images.
  10. Hypertext has been appropriately used to structure content.
  11. Sentences are written in the active voice.
  12. Pages are quick to scan, with ample headings and sub-headings and short paragraphs.
  13. The site uses maps, diagrams, graphs, flow charts and other visuals in preference to wordy blocks of text.
  14. Each page is clearly labeled with a descriptive and useful title that makes sense as a bookmark.
  15. Links and link titles are descriptive and predictive, and there are no "Click here!" links.
  16. The site avoids cute, clever, or cryptic headings.
  17. Link names match the title of destination pages, so users will know when they have reached the intended page.
  18. Button labels and link labels start with action words.
  19. Headings and sub-headings are short, straightforward and descriptive.
  20. The words, phrases and concepts used will be familiar to the typical user.
  21. Numbered lists start at "1" not at "0".
  22. Acronyms and abbreviations are defined when first used.
  23. Text links are long enough to be understood, but short enough to minimise wrapping (especially when used as a navigation list).

Download an Excel workbook containing all 247 web usability guidelines

You can also download translated versions of this checklist.

How to use these guidelines

Work through each of the items in the list and mark your site as either conforming or not conforming to the guideline.

Remember that all guidelines are context specific. If you feel that a guideline does not apply to your site, it's OK to ignore it.

These guidelines are purposefully expressed as positive statements, so that when you feed the results back to the design team you can identify some strengths of the design before you launch into the problems.

About the author

David Travis

Dr. David Travis (@userfocus on Twitter) is a User Experience Strategist. He has worked in the fields of human factors, usability and user experience since 1989 and has published two books on usability. David helps both large firms and start ups connect with their customers and bring business ideas to market. If you like his articles, why not join the thousands of other people taking his free online user experience course?

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