In my last post, I explained the importance of website usability. In this post, I explain what it takes to make a website so easy to use that your audience will love—and return to again and again because the experience is simple, painless and quick. Let's dive in and explore 4 steps for creating an effective, usable website—that is to say, usable by the people you are targeting.
1. Identify your target audience.
As with everything in communications and marketing, creating a website that is tailored to your audience first requires identifying that audience. Most businesses are clear on who they are targeting, but may not have considered all aspects of how users will use their website. Rather than hoping that your customers will do what you want them to do, you must guide them to the desired action through website design.
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2. Determine what your audience is looking for.
Be very clear about what you want users to do on your site. You may have more than one kind of user, and the different users may be looking for different things when they arrive at your site. What stage of the buying cycle are they in when they arrive? There are several sources of data open to you that can help determine what the users’ goals are:
- Support call data
- Field surveys
- Speaking with current customers
- Analyzing web traffic patters on your current site
- Look at referring data from search engines and other sites
3. Set goals for your site.
If your website isn’t designed with specific objectives in mind, it’s unlikely to fulfill your expectations. Here are some typical things you may want your site to achieve:
- Lead generation
If you are a non-profit charity, the list might look like:
- Education about the charity’s focus (such as heart disease, childhood hunger or animal rescue)
It’s fine to have multiple goals, but map them out before you begin development (or redevelopment) so that you can influence how users behave on the site.
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4. Understand how users interact with the site.
Understand how users currently use your site (this is an ongoing effort). A friendly site will anticipate what users want to do and make it easy for them. There are a number of different tools that can be used to gather this information, including:
- Eye tracking
- Web analytics
- Focus groups
- Individual user Q&A session
Here’s a short list of online tools you can use for analysis. Some of them are free:
- Google Analytics: Google makes a complete set of web analysis tools available for free. These tools can tell you who visited your site, how long they stayed, which pages they looked at, and how long they stayed on each page. They can also tell you where the visitors were referred from, what they do while on the site, and much more.
- Google Content Experiments: Formerly known as Google Website Optimizer, this tool compares how different web pages perform using a random sample of your visitors. Up to five different versions can be tested, allowing you to define what percentage of your visitors are included in the experiment and choose which objective you’d like to test.
- Autonomy Promotes/Optimost: This allows you to leverage real-time data sources from social media, customer feedback, web comments, call center calls and more to define the best keyword bid strategies for online advertising and improve campaign elements to be more effective with the target audience. It also consolidates all of our social media and unstructured customer data to allow higher conversion rates.
- ClickTale: This in-page analytics program records every visitor’s mouse move, click and scroll to reveal how they use your site, including heatmaps that show where your visitors’ eyes move on the screen and also analyzes where and why visitors leave your conversion funnel, allowing you to increase conversion rates.
- UserTesting: This service uses real visitors to test your site for usability.
- CrazyEgg: Tests eye tracking and heat maps on your site to understand where users’ eyes move to on each page. If their eyes are always going to a lower-value area instead of to the sweet spot where the sales happen, you’ll want to change that!
- AttentionWizard: Also tests eye tracking and heat maps.
In the next post in this series, we will explain some of the techniques introduced here, such as eye tracking, and provide some examples to illustrate how and why these techniques can be used to turbo-charge the value of your website to your business.
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