Usability - and More Usability

Usability is the key to a successful website and a successful business. Retail stores understand this, but does everyone else?

Good retail stores know where we look and where we walk in their stores, they know what shelves to put the right items on. And they know what messages sell. But how are our websites looking... Consider these issues

  • Restaurants - As a customer, what i want is: opening hours, booking phone/email, GPS friendly street address and interactive map, and a menu. Everything else is really a bit superfluous
  • Online Shops - I want to get to the products via a category menu visible on all pages. I want all relevant information about a product on one page, or if it really is impractical, then a major menu button getting me to "general installation/usage guidelines". The checkout process should not require user registration and login, unless it is a wholesale business with limited customer base.
  • Unsubscribe links - make sure they work... A recent site the text was included in the email, but unlinked. I looked around their website and could not find an unsubscribe option. I raised a support ticket and got an automated email that told me very little. It took several days for the site to get back in touch with me. Very very bad...
  • All other websites - I want trust, I want to know your contact details. Nothing puts less trust in me than a website with no phone or address. A physical address is better than a postal. Showing customers you really want to communicate with them instills trust. A photo of your "bricks and motar" store does also.

Usability helps everyone

  • Customer experience improves with a useable website, and happier customers make referrals
  • Customers who help themselves, save you admin time and money
  • Helping a customer complete a task that they are only tentatively interested in, will ensure a sale/enquiry is made that may have otherwise remained incomplete.

Common mistakes made

  • Don't put important information beneath the fold (that area where you scroll to, that no body goes)
  • Don't have too many competing messages. Your navigation should get everyone where they want to be, and calls to action should be limited to the primary 3 buy/enquire/subscribe options.
  • Don't rename your buttons with unique text. Home=Home (left most button), Map=Map. Contact Us=Contact/Us (right most button)
  • Keep news/events/blogs pages upto date, or don't have them.
  • Don't use flash for navigation. Don't depend on flash for calls to action. Flash does not work on the millions and millions of ipads and iphones that people use every day.
  • Test your website using customers and strangers. Give them a real world scenerio as a customer, and see if they can complete the task on your website without asking you questions. Watch where they navigate, take notes, and ask them later about how you could improve your website.


Posted: Thursday 7 April 2011


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