Don’t you love starting complicated processes? No? Well your users don’t either. That’s why it’s important to make things easy for the users or your website.
Years ago I read a book by Steve Krug called Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability. The book taught me how to design for users to be able to complete a goal. It may be for them to read a blog post. It could also be to sign up for a newsletter. Or it could be to purchase an item. Any of these scenarios could be a potential bottle-neck that traps and confuses your users.
We should be designing for children. Not necessarily children but at that mentality. Things should be intuitive and easily understood. No need to make a process difficult when it does not have to be.
Fortunately there are some good tools out there to use. Using heat maps can help discover where focus is on our site if your not sure. I've used Crazy Egg in the past with great results. They can help you discover sections of your site where the focus tends to be. It may be your logo, a graphic or block of text on a page or a menu item. Either way, you will gain some knowledge on where people's eyeballs go first and spend the most time.
Another great way to see what people may be doing is using some analytical service or software. This will help you see referrals that show how people made it to your site, what page they landed on, and the path that they took as they moved through your site. I've been using Google Analytics for quite some time now and it gives me a ton of info that I can then tweak to get better results if needed.
A quick real world example: I used to work for a company that did 17 million in sales in one year and 40% of that was done on the ecommerce website which I was in charge of. We realized at one point that people were using it much more than the 40% but they would see the products, then call in to make the order. We were able to find out why that was happening by gathering some feedback. Part of the reason was a clunky checkout system that people either did not want to mess with or would abandon at times out of confusion or frustration. When we addressed those issues we were able to improve conversions. Moral of the story? Little things matter and it's easy to sweep problems under the rug but first we have to know what those "problems" are.
I will say that for most small businesses the first thing that they will skimp on is user testing. They see it as unncessary or too expensive. But, there are ways to make it doable. Start with a small group. It could be friends, family, strangers, or co-workers as long as they are not involved with the project - that way they will not be biased. Ask them to do some tasks on the site with no instruction from you and watch them. Where are their confusion points? Do they understand that slick design interface that you are super proud of or is it too confusing and does not work as you had imagined? Things like this can give you some clarity on your projects. The more testing the better but some testing is better than no testing.
In the end, hopefully you and your team (if you have one) will see the value of streamlining your users experience and how to help determine what that experience is. It's not too hard or too late to start and it really helps. Now go build something great that people love!
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