From our London Correspondent:
Web site usability is the number one factor in your success - in fact, let’s face it, it’s probably the top TEN factors. Forget banners; forget free offers, and all that malarkey - if you’ve driven traffic to your site but your users can't work it out, then you’re in big trouble.
Want to check your usability? Take our quick quiz:
1. Starting from your home page, how many clicks does it take to get to customer service? How many to get to an opt-in feature of some sort (a newsletter sign-up, a membership form, crikey – how about an order form)? The answer to those questions wouldn’t be “too many” would it...?
2. Check your traffic logs to find out which ‘side doors’ (pages that aren't your home page) visitors use most frequently to visit your site. When you go to those pages, do they have the navigational features that enable people to find their way around the rest of your site as easily as if they'd come in through the FRONT door? Are you SURE...?
3. Look up your home page on a really crappy old computer with a slow modem. Try old versions of IE and Netscape. Try an old Mac. Does it load in under 30 seconds (or, ideally, 20)? Does everything look right no matter which browser or computer you use?
4. Scale down the size of your browser window a little so that it doesn’t fill your monitor, and view your pages through it. Many visitors don't open windows all the way. Does the small version contain the critical items a visitor would need to find his or her way around your site? Or is that ultra-critical part cut off somewhere at the side?
How did you do? Good, we hope. Either way, we thought we’d point out some of the best usability resources we've found...
Usability God Jakob Nielsen's Web site, includes news, useful links and site reviews. Bookmark this one.
2. ‘Designing Web Usability: The Practice of Simplicity’ – Jakob Nielsen's book, a global bestseller. You should have a copy on your desk (and maybe one on your bedside table as well)...
News and usability information for wireless designers. Updated by designers from six countries.
4. ‘The WebWord.com Usability Interviews’ by John Rhodes. This collection of interviews with the world's top 24 experts in usability and design features useful tips for techies and marketers alike. It's only available as a PDF file from MightyWords.com (a snip at US$3.95 we think you’ll agree)... http://www1.mightywords.com/asp/bookinfo/bookinfo.asp?theis
5. Nielsen Norman Group User Experience World Tour: This seminar is coming to London in late November (and, boy, do we hope we can score a press pass!) For information go to: http://www.nngroup.com/worldtour
The idea is you can learn good design from seeing what's bad. Be sure to sign up for the Daily Sucker while you're there!!
7. And for the true test... ask your parents!! Yes, ask your parents to go to your Web site and accomplish a task (you know - order something, contact customer service, sign up for a newsletter, find information... whatever you decide is critical to your site's success). Sit beside them while they do this but do NOT speak, point with your finger or even wiggle (it will be difficult, we know). Everything they can't figure out quickly and easily by themselves is something you've got to change. Sorry, but it’s true!! No, it doesn't matter if your target audience is more Web savvy than your parents. They have less patience and motivation than your parents do to surf your stuff. At the end of the day, it's all about pleasing the lowest common denominator. If a site's good enough for Mum and Dad, it's probably good enough for everyone!