Usability Before Promotion is a Recipe for Success
by John S. Rhodes of WebWord.com
I’m going to cut right to the idea that you need to understand: you cannot promote a website that is not easy to use, easy to navigate, and easy to understand. Well, actually that is a little white lie. You can promote a site that is not user-centered, and user-driven, but you will fail to get repeat visits and you will fail to get the sales you want.
This might sound a bit negative to you. But, the reality is that your website is driven by your users. One at a time they decide if they like your site. One customer at a time will decide if your product or service is worth buying. Each person will determine if you have succeeded or failed to serve them. If you try to promote your goods and services, but the usability of your site poor, then you can’t effectively help your customers.
What is usability exactly? What am I talking about here? How can usability help you? Usability is the philosophy and practice of being user-centered and user-driven. Every icon, every word, every part of your strategy is focused on serving your customers. They come first, before any consideration of your own. Usability is about making it easy to do business for your customers. It is about removing barriers; you want to help each person find exactly what they need.
But there’s more. Usability, and more generally human factors, is about continuously trying to improve your user’s experience with your website. Your website is more than the face of your company – it is your company. Many people will only interact with your website. They won’t call you, they won’t fax you, they won’t talk to you. Your website is your company so you need to make sure that it is easy to use.
Usability is a continuous process. You must test real users with real scenarios. The data that you derive from this testing is gold. It is the information that you use to shape and mold your site for your customers. If you simply develop a site without this information, you are doomed to design a site that is focused on your ideas and your desires. While this feels good, this will not ultimately boost your sales. Further, if you promote a site that has been developed without user involvement, all the promotions in the world won’t make your customers feel ownership. They won’t see it as their site, and they will be less likely to buy from you.
Think of your own experiences for a moment. On a website, would you rather read about the goals of a company and its mission, or would you rather read about how you can solve your problems? Don’t you want personalization, one-to-one attention, and individual care? If you do want these things, doesn’t it make sense that your customers want to be treated the same way? Everyone wants to spend less time doing more on the web. Everyone wants their life to be easier. Everyone wants a fast-loading and easy-to-navigate web page.
Act now on these ideas. Think about how and when you can run your first user tests. Think about how you can develop your site for your customers. Think about the problems that your customers face, and make it easy for customers to do business with you. Help them solve their problems.
There are several resources available on WebWord.com, my website dedicate to usability. I offer book recommendations, expert interviews, original articles, and importantly, a weekly newsletter. There are other usability resources available that you can find by hunting around on WebWord.com. Contact me at email@example.com if you have questions or comments.