When you first start out in business, getting a website designed and launched, is one of many things on an endless “to-do” list of “stuff”.
Be it, finding an accountant, getting business cards created or finding a packaging supplier, “getting a website done” is in there somewhere amongst the chaos! It’s easy, therefore, for you to feel a sense of accomplishment and relief, once it’s done. You can now worry about all the other business tasks you need to focus on like marketing, sales, admin and networking.
This does, however, leave your website feeling a bit sad and neglected. You believed that once the web designer handed it back over to you, it was all finished! It should just keep ticking over right? Wrong.
A website is never really “finished”. Your website is like your own personal storefront. It’s where you constantly send everybody when you’re doing any kind of online marketing activity, it’s the first thing you tell people when you’re networking, and it’s somewhere you could even be spending money to get people to.
It should, therefore, be something you are super proud of, something that looks fresh, clean and easy to use. You want people to land on your website and immediately get a feel for what you’re all about, and most importantly to find the information they came there to find.
Unfortunately, what I’ve been learning with small businesses, is that there simply isn’t that “usability” knowledge out there. Business owners don’t even realise that certain elements of their website actually aren’t something to be proud of, and are causing their customers confusion.
“A confused mind says no”
So, how are you supposed to know if your website is “usable” and working for your customers, if you don’t know what to look for? You don’t even know there is something wrong with it in the first place? Well, one option is to hire a specialist (like myself) to help with it. I offer various different website audits, depending on your budget (prices range from £25 for a small audit). Just drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org I’d be happy to discuss.
In the meantime, here is some information that might help:
What is usability?
Usability is about making your website as user-friendly and easy to navigate as possible. In today’s jam-packed digital world, your customers won’t spend more than one minute on your website if it’s slow, difficult to navigate or has fundamental design flaws (such as low resolution images, automatic pop-ups or videos, or a really outdated design).
In fact, most people will make up their mind within 7 seconds.
What kind of thing should I be looking out for?
According to web usability guru Jakob Nielson, usability is defined by 5 components:
Learnability: How easy is it for users to complete basic tasks the first time they see the website?
I think this one is the biggest reason why YOU are not seeing the fundamental usability issues. YOU HAVE LEARNED YOUR SITE. You’ve reviewed it over and over again, you’ve been through rounds of sign off processes with your designer, and you look at it on a daily basis. You’ve learnt it SO well that you couldn’t possibly visualise the types of issues NEW customers might see.
Efficiency: Once users have learned the design, how quickly can they perform tasks?
Memorability: When users return to the design after a period of not using it, how easily can they still use it?
Errors: How many errors do users make, how severe are these errors, and how easily can they recover from the errors?
Satisfaction: How pleasant is it to use the design?
How to find out if I have a usability issue?
If you do ONE thing after reading this blog post, please let it be that you sit with someone you know that has never seen your website (ideally they should be representative of your ideal customer). Give them one of the key tasks for your website, and watch them do it.
Some examples of tasks could be:
- Please show me how you’d find <product name> and then place an order.
- Show me how you’d find my contact details and send me an enquiry.
- Show me how you’d complete a booking for one of my sessions.
Make sure the task is complicated enough that they need to carry out an entire journey flow. Don’t simply ask them to navigate to a specific page. Test your core website functionality.
Most importantly, you must observe what they do. Don’t give them hints and don’t nudge them. You want to see exactly where they’re going wrong (IF they’re going wrong!)
Ideally you’d do this with 5 different people separately to try and gather themes.
Things to look out for when you carry out these tests:
- How are they interacting with the navigation? Do they use menu links at the top? Or do they use search? Do they miss something glaringly obvious?
- Do they notice key buttons? Buttons like “Read more” , “Add to basket” etc. Or do they miss them initially and have to scroll around in search of them?
- Are they noticing or mentioning key elements on your pages? Elements that YOU think stand out, but actually they are scrolling straight past?
- What are the journeys like? Do they take longer to do those tasks than you had imagined?
I’d love to hear from you if you do carry out these tests so please share, tag or just message and tell me!
The final thing I have to say is this: Please, I beg you, take another look at your website, but through someone else’s eyes – be that mine with an audit, or with some friends doing the task above. Just remember that you know your site inside out – but your customer may not, and you may be missing out on crucial sales.