There are a number of definitions of website usability. Dr. Peter J. Meyers, president of userreflect.com, defines it as, “… the science of making technology work for people.” What a concept—technology in service of human beings instead of the other way around! That’s exactly what a website should do: enable your visitors to access the information, service, or product they want as quickly and easily as possible. As simple as that sounds, it takes some serious thought and planning.
Before you go through the process of evaluating your current website (or planning a new one), it’s important to understand why usability is so important. In a nutshell, it impacts your bottom line. The fallout from poor website design is enormous:
- 85% abandon a site due to poor design
- 83% leave because it takes too many clicks to get what they want
- 62% gave up looking for an item while shopping online
- 40% never return to a site because the content was hard to use
- 50% of sales are lost because visitors can’t find content
Remember—it’s the unhappy customers who complain the most frequently about their experiences. According to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, a dissatisfied customer will tell between 9-15 people about their experience, while around 13% of dissatisfied customers tell more than 20 people. Multiply that 20 people by the number of followers the complainers have on Facebook and Twitter—and you can see the problem.
It’s well worthwhile to plan for usability before designing a website. The cost of fixing a poorly designed website is greater than just the time and money involved in the fix. As you can see from the statistics above, by the time you get around to fixing a site, you have already lost potential business.
RELATED TUTORIAL: B2B Website Redesign
There’s another aspect of usability that may not have occurred to you when thinking about website design. In 2006, the National Federation of the Blind sued Target over its website. The NFB contended that Target’s website was a “place of public accommodation,” and therefore came under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. As such, the suit claimed, the website had to be made usable by the visually impaired. Target settled out of court in 2008, setting up a $6 million fund for claims. Target also reworked the site to accommodate visitors using screen reading software and other aids. This is a serious consideration for an eCommerce site, but needs to be considered by other kinds of sites as well.
Come back next Tuesday, May 21 as I share 4 steps for creating an effective website that visitors love.
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