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How to Test Your Web Site Usability

By Herman Drost
Posted Friday, June 25, 2004

When designing a web site, you are never sure how it appears to
all people. This is because people use different browsers,
resolutions, computers and connection speeds to the Internet.
Your site may look good with your browser, but absolutely
horrendous in other browsers. This is why you should test the
usability of your site, before you expose it to the world.

What is usability testing?

This indicates the ease with which folks can use your web site.
Let’s look at a few usability factors.

Who is winning the browser war?

Here are the browser statistics:
39% Internet Explorer 6.0
51% Internet Explorer 5.0 2%
Internet Explorer 4.0
3% Netscape 4.0

A few years ago Netscape was the dominant browser, however
Internet Explorer now has 80% of the market. With the
introduction of Netscape 6.0 and 7.0 (their latest release),
this may eat a little into IE’s market.

The latest browsers support the latest designing technologies,
such as Cascading Style Sheets (CSS1, CSS2) and XML.

Installing different browsers

Test your web site in different browsers, so your web site
can be seen by as many people as possible.

Internet Explorer
Download Internet Explorer 5 and 6.
The way to do this is to either have each one installed on
a different computer, or to have 2 operating systems on your
computer. You can do this with partition magic.

Trying to install IE 5 & 6 on the same operating sysytem doesn't
work. One overrides the other.

Download NN 4.79 and 6.2. You can install them on the
same operating system as Internet Explorer.

Other browsers
The Opera browser
This is often known as the “third browser” after Internet
Explorer and Netscape. It has received international
recognition for being faster, smaller and more standards
compliant than other browsers.

This is a simple, efficient, fast browser that loads very quickly.
This is because it is an unbloated browser. If your web site
looks good in this browser, it will look fine in Netscape.

Test for different resolutions.

Just because your site looks great with your computer set
to a resolution of 800x600, it doesn’t mean it will look good
at a 1024x768 resolution. Often your web site may be hard
to read or aligned to the left or right of the screen.

Here are the statistics:
1024 x 768 resolution 44%
800 x 600 resolution 50%
640 x 480 resolution 3%

To test your web site in different resolutions, go to start –
settings – control panel – display – settings – slide the
pointer to the resolution you want.

Test for connectivity speeds.

You may be proud of your fast DSL, satellite or cable
connection to the Internet, however still most Internet
Users still connect via the modem. Connectivity speed,
determines how fast your site will load. If it contains
many graphics, which have not been optimized for the Web, you
may rapidly lose the patience of your visitors. They will click


Web Browser Statistics, resolutions, and operating systems. (
( - daily summary
of browser statistics.
( - tests your site in different browsers
(not always reliable).

Browser Downloads
Internet Explorer:(
Netscape:( Opera: (

Checking your web site’s usability can generate more traffic to
your site. It may take you a little extra time and patience,
but you can be assured you are reaching and pleasing a wider
About the Author
Herman Drost is a Certified Web Site Designer (CIW), owner and
author of Affordable Hosting, Site Design and
Promotion Packages (

Subscribe to his “Marketing Tips” newsletter for more original
articles. Read more of his
in-depth articles at: (


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