Here are a few thoughts to start with:
- Pages load quickly.
- The site is well organized and the information architecture is easy for users to understand.
- The navigation is clear and it's easy to move around the site ... for both sighted and non-sighted users.
- The content is laid out so pages are easy to scan, and when you've finished reading a page it's obvious what to do next.
- Every aspect of the site uses language that is clear, concise and unambiguous. There are no spelling or grammatical errors.
- Graphics are also clear, concise and unambiguous. No garish color combinations, please.
- Content is ordered and elements are labelled so the page would make good sense to someone accessing it with an audible screen reader.
A few more things which I try to think about when putting a web pages together:
- Links should be obvious and instantly recognisable.
- Advertising and content should be separated and easily distinguishable.
- Links which lead to external sites and / or open a new tab or window should be clearly indicated.
- The website should be designed in such a way that the back button is never broken.
- Navigational elements like homepage links, breadcrumbs and sitemaps help prevent readers from feeling "lost".
- The website should be designed to be platform-independent.
Using a website that does not make you want to throw your keyboard at the monitor. That about sums it up...
in the case of a forum such as this, it includes welcoming it's new members, sandeep.
I use this type of punchlist: Is the function/feature presented in the vernacular of the intended audience? (Not too simple, not too technical, using recognizable terms/icons, etc.) Is the function/feature immediately recognizable as such? (This is within the vernacular of the intended audience.) Does the function/feature fully resolve within my click count threshold? (I develop a min/max number of clicks, and "score" a page. I double the click count if the user has to think about the click, or move their cursor a long distance, etc.) Does the page have a "mission"? Does it stay within the boundaries of that "mission"? (i.e., if you are in a purchase page, then the user should not have to deal with profile management features, or if you are in a technical documentation page, the user should see all the documentation they need, and not have to worry about things like a schedule display, etc.) Is the user given sufficient feedback to know that an operation was successfully started/ended, etc.? Are distractions from the page "mission" minimized? (a tough call for ad-supported sites).
I have lately started to divorce "usability" from "accessibility." Thanks to things like AJAX, they are now no longer synonymous. I consider usability to be my #1 goal, but accessibility is immediately behind it.
Are usability and SEO more closely linked than people think?
Building content and getting links are all very well but if you're site is usable and makes more people stick around and navigate through - if google does take user behaviour into account then making your site more usable could be great for your optimisation..
What about accessibilty? Without meaning to be too controversial - do a lot of webmasters make their sites accessible to cater for everyone, or are there any peripheral benefits to it as well? (rankings perhaps?!)
There's not much controversy there. Taking steps to improve your site's accessibility will almost automatically improve your SEO.
Think about it: Googlebot is blind...
But googlebot doesn't need your text to be resizable x amounts of time and the design to still roughly work.. partially sighted people do..
I'm sure it's different for different audiences and website niches but what level of conforming is generally acceptable?