Great website usability is much more than pretty page graphics. As you’re developing your online presence, be it a website or some sort of advanced engineering application, understanding what positively affects the user experience will pay dividends to your company as well as for your users.
In order to consider the most important factors, there are 4 points you’ll want to review with whatever you are creating. The effective analysis of these 4 distinct areas should allow you to pit what you are building with that of your competition. Even if your competition fails to add up to what you’re hoping to build, simply knowing where you need to focus can mean the difference between failure and success.
First up: Branding. If you’re not effectively expressing who you are, and the company’s primary message, you might fail directly out of the gate. The user’s experience will need to be memorable and engaging, or else you risk losing their attention span in a massive sea of sameness.
If you’ve spent time, money and effort to create a unique branded company image, ensure what you are creating online will take advantage of, and leverage those previous investments.
Technologies can help your online presence to take advantage of delivering on everything your brand promises in the offline world. Short of scratch and sniff options, you should be able to effectively and memorably create a well branded online experience with all that is available in a good developer’s toolbox.
Functionality is the next point on the compass. If you’re using the right technology and have a great game plan, you’ll find your site is functional to the point of being forgotten; meaning when nothing is going wrong, everything is going right. No missing images, page time outs, requests not getting fulfilled. Users want what they want when they want it.
Most of them also need to be told what’s happening, or what just happened. Focusing on your site’s functionality is a great way to communicate that your business knows what it’s doing; whether with their web operations or in fulfilling products and services to the paying customers.
Usability cannot be overlooked in a rush to get the online presence up and running. Too many sites fail to prevent user errors from happening. Equally as disruptive is providing quick and easy methods for the user to overcome those errors.
Well imagined and implemented navigation is a must. Easy to use email communications or upload/download functionality all lend themselves to enhancing the user experience.
Is the Content at your site easily navigable and providing the answers your users are seeking? If not, you’ll find that the prettiest pages on the Net have little meaning to your intended audience. Keeping your content fresh, current, and up-to-date may cost you a little in ongoing operating costs, but the downside could be much more expensive. One of the worst things that can happen to your site is for visitors to get excited, visit once or twice and never return.
This is one of the areas that blogs on corporate sites have really helped businesses. If the reader/user knows there’s likely to be something new, fresh and different the next time they return to your site, you can be assured they’ll return more often to consume all that good content.
Branding, functionality, usability and content are four important points to consider, but at a bare minimum –how your current or proposed site compares to others in your space. Of course, there are other aspects of the user experience you might add in order to effectively evaluate your place in the online world. Just be sure you’re comparing all the subjects with the same criteria.
This is a guest post by Vern Marker. He a has been in the user experience industry for more than seven years and currently writes and blogs for a website usability testing company. When he is not writing, he loves to travel the world. Follow his adventures on Twitter @VernMarker.