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We all know that feeling of frustration we get when we arrive at a website and find that it’s nearly completely unusable, requiring such an effort of combined patience, guesswork, and trial-and-error to get what you need from it. Whenever we have the option, we go elsewhere for our needs, and we don’t go back there if we can avoid it.
This is where the element of website usability comes in, and the scenario outlined above, which is an all-too-common one, is why the topic should be an important one for website developers and business owners everywhere. Website usability, simply defined, refers to the ease with which the average visitor to your site can navigate your pages and achieve whatever their objective was when visiting your website naturally, simply, and easily.
Here’s a look at some simple things a developer can do to ensure that their website is easily navigable and informative – just the thing to attract and retain repeat visitors and new clients to your website.
Running Focus Groups
With about 6 to 8 users that fit the profile of your average user or target segment, you can effectively run a focus group. This group will basically give your website a trial run and point out any weaknesses, strengths, and possible points of improvement that might occur to them. It’s a great tool to employ, especially in the early stages of website design, as the general design structure is being determined.
Should you be already well-established in terms of the number of visitors to your website and the length of time your site has been running, then you will probably have a sufficient amount of visitors to use this method.
By giving visitors a short survey asking them a few questions such as what they don’t like about the site, what they like, what they would like to see change and such, you can get valuable, direct suggestions and feedback on how to improve your website’s usability. Keep the questions short, straightforward, and quickly answered for the best feedback.
Any running website has a visual analytical tool capability known as a heatmap. A heatmap basically shows you, very clearly by means of a hot-to-cool color spectrum, the most frequently clicked or busy elements of any web page.
This is a great means of tracking real user behavior and may give you valuable hints at what aspects of the site to tweak, improve upon, or perhaps get rid of altogether. You will probably be surprised to find that people don’t click where you expect them to be most interested. Believe it or not, but placing your CTA in right place can increase your CR by 200%. In the financial industry, especially forex trading this can increase profit by thousands of dollars.
To get some really valuable insight into your website’s usability on the cheap, paper prototyping is the way to go. Simply have your site pages drawn out on pieces of separate paper, and have the developer manage their movement. The idea is to have a user (tester) act as a visitor to the site would, calling for different cards as they would on the website. The ease with which the developer and the user can get to a given objective will give you a good idea of how usable the site itself is.
Running Site Audits
There are professional site auditors out there who can give your website a good looking-over, and tell you what you need to do to improve it. Auditors will usually be experienced web developers who know what it takes to create a desired level of usability. Good ones will be able to tell you what your audience will be looking for even before your audience itself knows it. Most people don’t know what they’re missing out on when they encounter poor website usability. Experts cover this gap in knowledge and experience.
One-On-One Usability Testing
In this case, you will have a single user giving your website a try, with you actually in the room with them. The benefit of this approach is that you will be able to directly observe how the person goes about working with the tools and facilities your website makes available. Set a predetermined set of goals and see how quickly and easily the user will accomplish them to get a good idea of your website’s usability.