How many times have you found yourself getting irritated while trying to
complete a process online? Booking flights, hotels, buying a product? Well if you struggle to complete a task on a website the good news is you are not to blame.
Jakob Nielsen, arguably the first and definitely the leading expert on website
usability has said that a bad website is like a grumpy salesperson. Meaning it actively drives customers away from it by frustrating or irritating them. If a website is difficult to understand or use it is the fault of the designer or company not the user.
We often design websites around our experience or understanding of our products and this is usually bad news for users. The worst sin of all is to assume everyone uses the website the way you do. Remember you are not your customer, they have different experiences, needs and understanding of your services or products. You need to consider your website from their perspective.
When you do that, the all important questions are:
- Are all menus consistent throughout the site?
- Are the main sections or functions (like product search) obvious?
- Are you bombarding them with everything at once, or are you giving them relevant information one piece at a time?
- Do you know what your visitors are trying to achieve and why it maters to them?
If we are honest, most of us will not have a definitive answers, it will be more of a gut feeling. So how do you diagnose a bad website? Well it might be common sense but unfortunately it is not that common.
Conducting a Usability study
This is actually a lot simpler than most people imagine. It consists of gathering a small group of people (normally 5-6) in a room with a range of devices (Smart Phones, Tablets, Laptops) and asking them to carry out specific tasks. While they are carrying out the tasks you observe and record there behavior and reactions. Do not listen to what they say but watch what they do (thanks again to Mr Nielsen for that tip)
An important caveat here is that the users you gather should relate to your ideal customer or user. If you are not sure who that is you should check out our research options here but in short they are the people you expect to use your website to buy from, or learn about you.
The specific tasks you set your users is up to you but you are looking at there behaviour and assessing 5 key aspects:
How easy is it for users to accomplish basic tasks the first time they encounter the website?
Once users are familiar with the website, how quickly can they perform tasks?
When users return to the website after a period of not using it, how easily can they reestablish proficiency?
How many errors do users make, how severe are these errors, and how easily can they recover from the errors?
How pleasant is it to use the website? remember, the more relaxed and comfortable your user, the more likely they are to convert.
Studying the results of your tests through the prism of these pointers will give you a very clear idea of what you need to improve on and what is all ready working well. Once you have made improvements to the way users experience your website the most important thing to do next is…
Ask your users again!
The best way to ensure your results keep getting better is to test, tweak and test again. This should never stop. As the intelligence, technology and attitudes of your users keeps evolving. So should you.
This article is giving you the briefest outline of something called usability which is vital to User interface Design (UI), which in turn is a major aspect of User Experience (UX) I have intentionally left these buzzwords until the end of this article because a lot of you out there have a negative reaction when you hear them.
You assume that it is either too complicated or too costly but as you can see from the simple steps above it is very easy for any business to start listening to how their customers feel about interacting with them.
If you feel like you need a bit more help on this then why not get in touch and we can start a conversation.