Website Usability – Is Your Site a Boy Band?

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Born out of the imagination of managers and producers and assembled like a dysfunctional puzzle, the boy band is a marketing phenomenon designed with one specific goal in mind. Captivate and mesmerize the young “teenybopper” crowd. The boy band is so focused on achieving this goal through the use of smooth harmonies and infectious dance moves that everything else is secondary.

In addition to a limited market appeal, the shelf life of these factory manufactured bands is invariably short. After their song hits the airwaves, there is a limited timeframe in which they can be successfully marketed to the “teenyboppers” before their market looses interest in them or outgrows the idea in general. That is why you see the album followed by the dance remix album and finally the greatest hits album all within six months of each other.

Whether you are creating a new site, or updating an existing one, if careful attention is not paid to how design elements will impact user experience, your site may quickly become an online boy band. Simply stated, if your site is all glints and glamour with no substance (although the initial traffic push and buzz may be great), and if the user experience is secondary to the design of your site, users will quickly jump ship to the next “big thing” or revert back to what they already know and are comfortable with. Granted, for some companies that focus on selling the newest products, this initial push and “wow” factor is what drives their business, but for most companies, this model is not the road to success.

Given this, there are a number of elements that should be considered when designing a site.

1) Make sure your navigation is both consistent and obvious. Users should always know where they are, and how to reach their end goal. A user should not have to spend time trying to learn how a site’s navigation works.

2) Don’t try to trap users in your site by disabling the “Back” button function. For most users this will not only cause confusion, but also frustration.

3) Because not all users will enter your site from the home page, make sure that every page of your site makes it clear for users where they are and how to get to other areas of the site.

4) Write and design your site for web users. People read a website differently then they read other forms of printed material. Web users tend to skim a page to find what they are looking for. Make sure a user can quickly find what they are looking for. Don’t hide it in long paragraphs of text.

5) Do not put the fate of your site in flash. Remember, not everyone likes, or renders flash. If your navigation and message is buried within a flash movie, you are potentially losing a significant portion of your traffic. Also, if you allow users to skip over flash intros or elements make sure that your “Skip Flash” button is not contained within the flash movie. This button does not do your user any good if they can’t see it.

Although these are just a few of the design elements to consider, when it comes to website usability, just remember this simple, boy band rule: “Quit Playing Games” with your users or be prepared to say “Bye Bye Bye”.

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