As mentioned in a previous post, usability is important in designing a customer-centric site. Usability, as defined by Wikipedia:
Usability is a term used to denote the ease with which people can employ a particular tool or other human-made object in order to achieve a particular goal.
In the non-Internet world, we expect certain things to be in a certain place and to act in a certain way. In the US, traffic lights have red (stop) at the top, yellow in the middle, and green (go) at the bottom. Even someone who is colorblind can read the traffic light due to the consistency in the position of the lights and what they mean. If every state had different colors and positions of lights, we would see a lot more accidents.
Design on the web is the same way, people expect certain things to be in a certain place on a website. If they are not there or are in a different place, they have to waste time trying to find them. Often people won’t bother with searching for things. They will just visit another site that is designed in a manner that they expect. Designing for usability is extremely important for eCommerce sites where one misstep leads visitors out of a buying process. While not quite as obvious as when a visitor has an item in a shopping cart, design missteps on corporate websites can be just as damaging, but not as easy to measure.
Designing for usability is not particularly difficult. You just need to be patient, know what to look for, do some testing, and be prepared to make constant improvements to your site. Redesigning your site can certainly help, but you will get the best results out of constant refinement.
We’ll examine what data to look at when redesigning your site in Website Usability Basics – Part 1 – Research.