Website (and blog) specification often comes with a lot of challenges. When you’re designing your site, you want to put your company in a very positive light, but you also need to bear in mind that people who find you want something from it, too.
It’s important to know that your site is being designed for your audience, not yourself. Your content is supposed to appeal to the reader, not just to you. Your ultimate goal is high return on investment (ROI). You want your product to be sold. You want people to come back to your site for future purchases. You want your product to be easily accessible, easily found, and easily returned to.
You want a usable website that tailors to the needs of hundreds and thousands of prospective buyers.
Remember that your visitors will likely have different goals than you. If your site is not approachable and the product is difficult to find, or you don’t have a contact link easily visible, you’re likely not going to be able to sell your product as well as you might have if those features were available.
Make your product easy to come by. Be approachable.
An excellent article on the subject matter is written by Kim Krause Berg. She brings up many important points that should be addressed in the beginning of the design process:
…designers want to know how your product, service or information will help someone with something they need or want. A website performs best when it nails the tasks involved in delivering a need, want or desire right from the start, which is often the homepage.
For that high return on investment, there are some guidelines to consider when making that website usable:
Rule #1: If your ultimate goal is to sell something, don’t hide those products behind a bunch of links. Make it visible on the front page.
Rule #2: You are excited about selling your product. Try to understand your customers’ emotions when they come to your website. Will they be bored and overwhelmed? Excited and interested in digging deeper? Ask for feedback from people who genuinely want to invest in your product and who understand the importance of approachable design.
Rule #3: Make your content persuasive. Promise something early on. Use power words that are designed to suck your customer in.
Rule #4: A catchy design will draw your customers in. Make your text easy to read. Don’t use a crazy color scheme like small white text on a bright red background. Remember, you might think the design is great, but your customers are the ones who will judge whether you’re worthy of their dollar. Get opinions on design. Let your users be critical and welcome their criticism. Let your designer help you achieve the desired result. Listen to them and improve within reason.
Rule #5: Don’t do something unconventional because it adds “flavor” to your website and “makes it stand above the rest.” A splash page (e.g., flash element) that introduces your site won’t point your customer to what you’re selling immediately. Remember, your customer is seeking information and wants to achieve that quickly. The flash might look pretty for you, but your customer will hit the back button if s/he is not able to easily locate the desired product or service. Music, too, unless an essential part of the service you provide, is not something your customer prefers to access unwillingly. Both of these elements are even less preferred by people on slow connections or dial-up.
Keep in mind that in business, your website is a tool to promote your product, but certain guidelines must be followed to catch the attention of your audience. The average web browser spends 25 seconds to 1 minute on newly found websites.
Interestingly enough, yesterday was World Usability Day, which “promotes the value of user-centered design and the belief that every user has the responsibility to ask for things that work better.”
It is your job to listen.