By: Steve Baldwin, Senior Art Director
You can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for the design of a Web site with a “killer” look, only to end up wondering why customers aren’t knocking down your “virtual” door. A competitor, conversely, could spend a fraction of that cost developing a site that attracts significantly more visitors and delivers a higher return on investment.
Why the apparent paradox? What makes one virtual destination more successful than another? The answer is simple. Usability of your web design. Michael Bernard, of the Software Usability Research Lab, says it best. He believes, “Usable Web sites incorporate human tendencies and limitation into the overall design.” A number of studies confirms that the overall usability of a site is what brings people back. The key element of usability is equally simple: how the information is organized.
Given that usability is critical to Web site design, here are some fundamental steps to ensuring or enhancing your site’s usability:
• Put things where they belong. Web users look in common places for common items. Place buttons and links where users are accustomed to seeing them, i.e., keep HOME near the top left and CONTINUED at bottom right.
• Time is of the essence. Keep information brief and pertinent, highlighting the most important information. Help users navigate the site quickly, without getting “lost.” Make action objects visible and clearly identify where “links” go.
• Keep it fresh. Keep your content up-to-date and targeted to your audience. Be sure to speak at a level – and with terms – your users understand.
There are many factors that contribute to a successful Web site. If you make your site’s
usability the foundation of its design and function, you’ll find visitors eager to come back