Usability for CUs, a 12-Step Program

David Rubini at online banking company Digital Insight has some words of wisdom for Web site operators of the Credit Union industry. The short of it is:
12 Steps to a User-Friendly Web site
In order for an online banking to be successful, it must be effective, efficient and satisfying to the user. Developers and designers must take the fundamental principles of human behavior and performance into consideration to achieve this outcome.
The following 12 steps will take your Web site down the path of usability wellness (we’ll address the critical design elements that help drive usability in part two of this series) 3 :
Be Compatible: Users form a mental model of expectations culled from prior experiences. Don’t try to break new ground: follow what has proven to work elsewhere and repeat.
Make the Interface Transparent: A good user interface requires little conscious thought from the user. Each page’s function should be immediately apparent.
Be Concise: Any information displayed at a given step should have direct relevance to the task at hand. If they are transferring funds, for example, don’t try to sell them on online bill pay. Stay the course.
Provide Constraints: Make it impossible for the user to make a wrong choice by constraining alternatives. In addition, offer only valid options.
Speak the User’s Language: Do not present unnecessary information. Ensure what you do present is in a natural and logical order.
Be Obvious: If missing data is detected, prompt the user for the data, like highlighting the missing information in red for example. Better yet, offer them a default value.
Keep the User in Control : “Are you sure you want to transfer these funds?” Users need to feel that they are the ones always in control, not the computer. Ask them to authorize each step they take.
Provide Feedback: “Thank you. The transfer has been made.” Let users know where they are, what they have done, and the success rate of each task.
Accommodate Different Skill Levels: Meet the needs of primary users, both novice and expert:
For Novices: provide “more info” and other visual cues to help make it easy or to learn more For Experts: provide hidden shortcuts that are redundant with visible cues. Provide tours and orientation models for users that want to go beyond the basics.
Minimize the User’s Memory Load: Don’t assume the user knows what you feel should be obvious, like clicking on the company name to get to the home page, for example. Make visual cues clear, but keep them balanced on the page. Don’t visually overload.
Be Consistent: Use principles of good design and industry style guidelines. Users expect familiar conventions that have been tested and are typically proven to work.
Assume Murphy’s Law: Most errors are design errors, not user errors. Provide help at key decision points and allow for easy error recovery by making actions reversible.
(full article)