One of the main goals of any business is to successfully meet customer needs.
How do you accomplish this when creating a website? The first step is to create a user friendly website; website usability is critical in order for a site to convert. Once people reach a website, the website must finish the job by appealing to the customer’s objectives. Online marketing will go only so far if a website is designed without considering usability.
What are the key attributes of website usability? Evaluate the user experience by looking at these four elements:
These elements are displayed in the order of how a user accesses a website and show the information they are looking for. What should be evaluated in these areas to become website usability compliant?
Accessibility is asking. Can a user find your website and its information easily? There are a few things to evaluate. Check to make sure that the website opens correctly regardless of the configurations of the user’s computer, and research customers and the information they are looking for on the website. A website should also be accessible to booking engines by having the proper source code information. Booking engines may skip over a site that doesn’t have the coding that gives information about the program and language used to create the site. Two types of codes used by search engines are DOCTYPE, which tells what program was used, and Language Attributes, which indicates the language used on the site.
Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) pages are also important when creating a website. CSS allows extensive coding to be stored on the pages so that search engines can find pertinent metatag information quickly.
When assessing your website’s accessibility, keep users who have disability and functional limitations in mind. These people require focus on color contrast, compliance to text browsers, avoidance of time responses, straightforward language instructions, and concentration on photo flicker sensitivities. Accessibility is the first step to having a user-friendly site. Hospitality websites in particular need to have accessible booking information as well.
Impression and perception are the cornerstones of online marketing and are invaluable to website usability. Make sure that your website has an appealing header/logo, high quality photographs, and color scheme, and that it is of a professional quality and focused on the products being offered. For example, with an inn, information about innkeepers and family (including animals) should be on an innkeeper’s page, separate from the homepage. The homepage should keep the focus on the services and products offered to the potential guest.
How well can someone understand and learn the information on your website? A homepage should have the main mission of the site clearly stated, and it should be understood by a first-time visitor in 30 seconds or less. Keeping information simple, concise, and easy to navigate and understand is critical for effective website usability.
According to Web Usability expert Jakob Nielsen, a good navigation system should answer three questions:
1. Where am I?
2. Where have I been?
3. Where can I go?
The first aspect in answering the above questions is to have an appealing navigation system at the top portion of your website; this is prime real estate. This navigation system should not have disappearing or reappearing links; this is unpredictable and confusing to the user. Also, interior pages should always have a link to the homepage, making it easy to go to all pages of your site no matter which page the user is on.
Another key area of navigation is hyperlinks. Hyperlinks should be distinguishable from other text and content by making them a different color or font, or by underlining them.
To concentrate on helping users understand where they have been, “breadcrumbs” or “breadcrumb trails” are very useful. “Breadcrumbs” offer a navigation feature that helps visitors keep track of their location within a website; a “breadcrumb trail” offers a path to follow to get back to the entry point of the website. Making the navigation of a website simple to use is a key element of usability that will help visitors convert.
Website usability is very influential for online success, but how does one decide which portions of website usability to implement? Figuring out what to target is imperative. With the correct usability techniques in place, you will see benefits that include increased customer satisfaction and loyalty, revenue, and positive responses. You’ll also see reduced maintenance costs, development time and costs, and fewer visitors immediately bouncing from your site. Website usability will help you accommodate your customer’s needs and contribute to your online success.
To read more about website usability, please download a PDF of my recent white paper, from which this article is extracted, by going to www.blizzardinternet.com/whitepapers/whitepaper_form.htm.
Gloria Farmer – Blizzard Internet Marketing, Inc.