If or when people show up at your website, it’s assumed they’ll read or scan all of your pages – or those they’re interested in. However, this is far from a given. More often than not, visitors leave almost immediately. The latest figures indicate within 8-20 seconds. A few reasons:
- Your home pages fail to clearly state what your company does
- There’s too little or too much information on that first page, or any page for that matter
- Your text communicates little of significance
- Sought after info is hard to find or poorly organized when it is found
- Links (connections to related info) within the site-blog are incorrectly formatted or phrased
- Impatience of site visitors: Web users are demanding and have short attention spans; they seek out specific information and if there are too many obstacles, they click elsewhere – within seconds
Usability to the Rescue
Luckily, standards (also called conventions) have evolved, based on the testing of thousands of people over 10+ years. Combined, they’re known as Usability (Use-Ability) or User-centered Design, User-Friendliness and more recently, User Experience (UX).
Usability is defined by several quality components:
- Learn-ability: Ease of accomplishing certain goals such as finding sought after information and expecting to find it where they found it
- Usefulness: The relevance of the words according to the visitor’s needs-interests, how well the site is written (style, readability, appropriate word choice and topics)
- Efficiency: Once a site’s functionality and orientation has been figured out, how fast can site visitors find things, download stuff, or take other actions?
- Memory-ability: If the person leaves then returns a week later, how fast can they re-learn how to find things?
- Error Recovery: If they click the wrong button, how fast-easy can they find their way to where they want to go?
- Satisfaction: Was their visit a pleasant one? Did they find what they were looking for? Did it meet their expectations?
For business owners and decision makers, the degree of consideration given Usability determines the length of time spent on their site, desired actions taken, sales inquiries; in doing so, Usability corresponds to a return on investment.
Why and how? If site visitors can easily find their way around a site and enjoy the text enough to read it, they’ll likely:
- Understand the company’s value proposition and service-product-competitive advantages
- Download white papers and other marketing documents
- Participate in surveys or social media
- Recommend the site to Google, visit again, and/or pass the site on to colleagues, friends, followers or family members
Sales and Marketing benefits
1) Lead generation from phone calls, emails, downloads, visits, and requests for more information
2) Fewer customer service call center or calls to support personnel because the site will have easy-to-follow help guides on-board.
Each of these reasons makes a strong case for Usability to be factored into any website’s planning process. Frequently, however, Usability is overlooked due to ignorance or a belief that ‘savvy web design’ and-or features conquers all. If that were so, the average time for visitor to click elsewhere wouldn’t be in that 8-20 second range.
As Web applications expand to new markets and more diverse audiences (like my 90 year old mother who’s now going online), less sophisticated users will need dramatically improved Usability.
Embracing Usability, therefore, maximizes your visitor’s concentration, satisfaction, sense of control, and reading productivity. As your website is a vital part of your marketing strategy, Usability allows it to fulfill its role as a lead generator, converter, and an online extension of your brand.