When everyone and their cat knows what SEO is, few people remember about making their websites usable for their own visitors. Unfortunately, they are missing a goldmine here, as website usability can have as positive effect on a website as quality search engine optimization.
What is website usability?
Anyway, what's this usability thing?
Put simply, usability is about making the site easy for your visitors. The easiness is about understanding what the site is about, navigating to what the visitor needs and doing what both site visitor and owner want.
There are many ways you can improve your site usability:
- use simple language
- use clear link labels
- provide easy site navigation
- use understandable site structure
- have objective site content
- have pages focused on one thing
- provide clear click paths
- always have an obvious way to contact you
- show your photo, some personal information on the "About" page
Well, you get the drift. How you know do you get from usability?
Benefits of usability
As you can grasp from the above examples, visitors of a usable website can find what they want quicker and do what they want easier as well. This happens when your potential customers know what your website has to offer, the benefits of your offer, begin to trust you and they see a simple way to buy from you.
Naturally, improved site usability increases your site sales. A nice thing to know is that you increase sales by improving your conversion rate (the total number of visitors to the number of customers). You not only don't need extra traffic for this, but you can improve your conversion rate from 1% to 2%-3% (there's no official limit, really). Which means you can increase your sales by 100-300% by improving your website usability.
But usability doesn't just foster conversion sales. Simple language, clear text labels and using the words your customers use to describe your product, you can increase your website traffic as well. Traffic will come, because you will be easier to find from the search engines. Some claim that the traffic boost will be about 100-150% as well.
Improved usability also reduces the amount of time required to develop your website, since you won't need to tweak your site later a lot on visitor demand.
How to improve usability
There are numerous ways you can improve your site usability.
One is to study various usability resources, such as usability.gov, usabilitynews.com, credibility.stanford.edu, etc. and implement various tested guidelines, trusted techniques on your website. You may also read usability sections on forums, such as Cre8asiteForums, Search engine watch, etc. You can not only ask for opinions, but also read shared knowledge and read articles that people link to.
Usability user testing
Another is to use user testing (calling your visitors, readers and potential customers 'users' may be harsh, but that's the usability terminology..use what you like to improve it). Basically, you need to tell your usability test participants to do something specific (purchase your software) or answer a specific question (what's the main reason to use your software?).
You need to check the time it'll take your testing people to complete the tasks and see what difficulties they overcome to do what you both want. Such usability testing sessions can be real eye-opening sometimes.
Hiring a usability consultant
And, of course, (what'd you expect) is to hire a website usability developer or consultant. This way you get to use the knowledge, accumulated in years, and skills, improved with time (like wine), to improve your website.
Benefits and advantages
Each way of improving your site usability has its benefits and disadvantages. When learning usability yourself, you can do everything the same yourself (and save money), but it takes time. When running a user testing session, you need to know what to look for in visitor behaviour, but critical faults may be found anyway. Website usability expert is a fast and a reliable method, but costly. Each to his own, I guess.
Though website usability isn't something you hear often, it doesn't mean it should be neglected. By recognizing the issue now, you can be way ahead of 80-95% of your rivals, which may be a very appealing competitive edge. If you think usability isn't for you, try making small changes in the right directions and test their effectiveness, as only by seeing real results you'll be more confident in improving your site usability.