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The Importance of Web Usability

Part 1
Part 2

- The Difference Between Buy and Bye

If you build it, they may or may not come. But if they do come and you've built it badly, they almost certainly won't come back. By Dan Shafer (6/23/98)

Have you ever decided to grab that cheaper bottle of no-name ketchup on the grocery store shelf but you couldn't reach it because it was to high up on the shelf? Did you instead pick the exact same bottled product labeled Heinz ketchup on the bottom shelf even though it was $0.89 more, but simpler to grab?

The importance of site design is exactly the same and you have to cater to your customer (known from here on only as "user/users") or else they will shop elsewhere.

Interface design, together with basic human interface factors must always be adhered to when designing a marketable site.

Interface design is mainly screen display and interactivity with computers and electronic devices. Interface design encompasses everything a user sees, touches, hears, and interacts with. The interface design orients the user to the experience or message of the website. The best interface is one that is transparent to the user, meaning that it does not distract from the purpose and message of the experience. A transparent interface is one that is so subtle and quiet that users do not perceive an interface at all. Elements of the interface range from screen layout and color selection to modes of interaction such as text or icons.

One of the most important areas that should never be overlooked is the hierarchy flow of the website and the navigation system the user will have to use to find their way through the website. A user has to have a clue where they are, where they are going or how to get back to where they were.

Build your website using a hierarchy. The key is to provide a way for users to answer three questions:
1. How do I know where I am?
2. How do I know where I am likely to go or should go next?
3. How do I know how to get back to where I was?

Ensure there are not too many links to choose from, especially on the home page. A user easily gets overwhelmed when visiting a site with zillions of links. Remember that you have one or more primary messages that you want to communicate, so keep your visitors focused on achieving the actions you want them to achieve. Don’t let your customers get lost. Always inform them where they are and why they are there. And if they do get lost, provide them simple mechanisms to return to higher-level pages or give them access to a site map or index.

Finding your way from point A to point B is tough enough when there's a good road map, but on the Web there are only hyperlinks to point the way. Web builders need to design their site navigation so that users can find their way around without getting lost along the way.

You never know at what page a visitor will enter your site. Ensure they have easy navigation once they are there to the rest of the Web site.

For example, how do we get customers to give us money? They have to be able to find products on your site they're willing to buy. Notice the word "find" because it's the key concept. The two ways people "find" their way around your site is by using your search engine or by navigating based on the links you've created. Quite frankly, search engines suck and are another topic in itself. The second way people find items on your site is through your site's navigational scheme.

When you go to the grocery store to buy food, they've got your money. When you're on the Web it's different because every click is a decision point and people are ruthless. If they don't like what they see or they're confused, they go somewhere else. Bad Navigation. According to a recent research paper, "39 percent of test shoppers failed in their buying attempts because sites were too difficult to navigate." Imagine what would happen if your bricks and mortar business lost almost 40% of its potential customers because they walked in your store and couldn't find what they were looking for because your aisles were built in the shape of a maze? When laying out a project plan for your website, remember to "KISS" (Keep It Simple Stupid).

Continue to Part 2

Tawnya Sutherland, Copyright © 2003
This article may be freely reprinted in your ezine, e-book and/or on your web site so long as it provides a link back to the Mediamage Business Solution’s website. Email for permission guidelines.


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