Today we’re lucky enough to have one of the leading experts in Web site usability, Kim Krause Berg, post to the Blizzard blog. Kim does a great job of breaking down some usability roadblocks and helping us decide what changes we could make on our sites to help conversion rates. Kim is the owner and operator of UsabilityEffect.com, Cre8pc.com, and the founder of Cre8asite forums.
Thanks, Kim – we appreciate your contribution!
After months of dreaming, hiring web designers and marketers, getting your site’s pages into search engines and getting crisp new business cards made up, there may come a day when you look at your web site and want to throw it against a fence. You spent all this money and nobody is buying your braided bracelets or easy breezy auto tools online.
Last you checked, “easy breezy undercar gadget” ranked in the top 5 spots in Google. Yet, your statistics indicate people are coming to your homepage and leaving within a few minutes. They’re not clicking inside your site. Your friends all said your web site looks “great”, “love the logo!” and “I’ll show it to my brother-in-law” but you see no evidence proving your site rocks.
What just happened?
Are you truly prepared for the answer?
Your website works for you because you made it for you and in all likelihood, whomever you hired to build it either built it per your specifications or tried to guide you on “best practices” and you refused to listen. Why?
Because you know what works for you. You already know where to go on your website to find the price for “purple handled thingabobs”. You know what you dislike and are convinced you have the better way. However, on the Internet, “better” takes on new meaning when you apply it to several million people from around the world. Do you really know how to sell to millions of people?
There’s much to tell you about how to pause, take stock of where you’re at, and start thinking in terms of what visitors want to do on your website vs. what you would do. The easiest way to trouble shoot and get to some of the easiest repairs is to interview your web site.
So, here we go:
- Who are you? Ask your homepage what company it represents and ask it to show you all the places it mentions a company name. Sure, it may boast a handsome logo, but is the logo brand the same as the company name or different?
- Where are you located? If your business is local, be sure to say so. It’s amazing how many local searches come up empty because businesses didn’t put their business address on their homepage or page footers. Try not to hide your business address in your Contact page only, but when you put it there, toss in a Google or Yahoo! map, directions, and a reminder if persons outside the vicinity can also buy from you. Explain how they can do that.
- Why did I pay for you to be here? Of course you have some ideas about this but to everyone else visiting your web site, this is sometimes a mystery. If you want people to be informed, put the content above the page fold rather than Google Ads. If you want people to search for singles on your dating site, put the search function at or near the top, before your ads. If you want to sell your braided hemp anklets, make darned sure you have images and Add to Cart buttons above your Google Ads. If you have condo rentals at the beach, your search and reservations applications must be at the ready on every page, above the page fold and nowhere near your ads. Point being, nobody is coming to your site to click on your ads unless they really wanted to go to a Google Ads Shopping Mall.
- What do you offer? Your website must make it very clear from the get-go that it has something of value to whoever finds it. It has about 5 seconds to do that and longer if the site is attractive. If attractive, visitors will look for the “thing I came for”. You must offer that thing. You must show the way to find that thing. You must show you know that thing better than anybody else. Just because you know where you put that thing doesn’t count.
- When can my site visitors do their thing? Ah! So, FLASH has loaded, the animated wiggling things have stopped moving, visitors see “my thing and by golly, it’s on sale too!” and now what? Do they order it today? Do they order online? Can they call you? If they call, where did you hide your phone number? Is there a “live person” to talk to and if so, when? When will their things arrive? Other “When” visitor questions are often missing but vital concerns such as “When did you make that cake you’re going to ship to me?”, “When did you establish your business”? “When do I order wedding announcements” and if you sell internationally, when is the best time to call? Site abandonment issues are often tied to the “Missing When Syndrome”.
- How will you make me happy/rich/famous? Your web site was given a set of goals and it knows you better than you may know yourself. Scary I know. It knows you want to run off to some island after you “get rich online”. However, it can’t help you if you don’t help it. Therefore, if you put up a newsletter or RSS feed signup, describe how often subscribers may hear from you, how they can unsubscribe and why they should subscribe. If you have a shopping cart, how long is it? How do customers know when to print the receipt? How will anyone know their order was received? If you blog, how can someone leave comments, Stumble the post or contact you? How long have you been in business? How long has the site been online? How long are warranties? How does anyone know you can be trusted?
Starting today, you have before you 6 separate areas you can investigate. Your answers help define your goals and refine your requirements. All the small things you do build authenticity and trust with your site visitors and search engines. Sure, interviewing your web site may seem silly but it gets you outside of your own box. Rest assured that you’re in good company. No web site is perfect when it’s first rolled out, due to fact that typically, user testing wasn’t performed during the build process. The “users” have been you and your design team, who don’t need to use the site.
Finally, the worst thing to do is beat yourself up by thinking, “Geez, what did I do? I spent all this money and my site’s terrible!” It really isn’t. It hasn’t met user expectations. It’s met yours. The more time and effort put into user experience and usability heuristics, the better your web site’s success will be for years to come.