How usable is your site?

If you asked your customers to discuss the fine points of web usability, you’d probably get a blank stare.

But would your customers recognize a site with poor usability? You bet. And by recognize the site, we mean leave the site – immediately.

Usability is about creating websites that make life easy for your users. So they stay on your site, easily moving through your navigation, easily finding how to contact you, easily making purchases.

Unfortunately, too many sites make life tough for their users. We won’t go into all the ways this can happen, but here are a few of our pet peeves.

  • Confusing navigation. Too often navigation is structured from the perspective of the company rather than the user. For example, we recently tried to register our kids online for summer camp. First we tried Registration, then Programs, then Events. Nada. Finally we took a wild guess and tried Classes – under which we found summer camp. Do you really want your customers to play guessing games before they can buy something?
  • Links that don’t behave predictably. Web users have become accustomed to certain navigation elements behaving in certain ways. We expect to click on your logo and be directed to your home page. We expect to click through long content using Previous and Next buttons. When we can’t do these things we get frustrated with you. We lose belief in your site.
  • Hidden Contact Us information. There’s nothing more frustrating than searching fruitlessly for a company’s phone number or address. First you look for a “Contact Us” page at the top. Then you look in the footer. Then, with increasing annoyance, you start digging through pages with names like “Our Firm” and “Get to Know Us.” When customers are at the critical moment of converting to a sale or seeking more information, it should be incredibly easy for them to contact you – not incredibly annoying.

So many elements go into creating highly usable sites; several basic checklists are available online. But all of them are based on a focus on the user – what she is looking for, what she expects, what she needs from your website and your company. Without that focus, all is lost.

Want to talk about your site’s usability?

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