Website Usability – You Can’t Get There From Here

As a member of the Search Marketing team at Oneupweb, one topic that often comes up is website usability and its effect on positive return on investment.

Usability can encompass many different facets. How easy is it to navigate through the website? Are search engine crawlers able to successfully find and index site pages? What paths do you want customers to take through the site? How up-to-date is content?

Some of these questions seem very obvious, but it is amazing how many sites miss out on conversions because they lack a few things that could make them so much more competitive.

I have visited sites that were so out-dated that “What’s Hot” happened over a year ago or the homepage is still advertising a sale that ended last month. If I am supposed to fill out a form to get more information or request a catalog, how do I know if they plan to check their e-mail anytime soon? Chances are I will move on to a competitor who appears to be more on top of their game. If you are interested in repeat customers, eliminate the “dusty content” and keep it up-to-date.

Let’s say I click on a site with good positioning and fresh content. I start to fill out a request for more information and one form leads to another and then a request for credit card information, even though I’m not buying anything yet. Sorry, I’m out of there. It’s unfortunate, but many websites make it way too much work for the customer. Consumers can only be pushed so far before they look elsewhere. Pushy sales people are harder to get rid of in person. On the web it’s simple. Click. They’re gone.

I’ve visited sites where, if you take a wrong turn, there is no way to get back home, save the back arrow. Even having to scroll down to the very bottom of the page to find a homepage link makes it more difficult for the user.

Shopping carts can also pose usability concerns. Avoid making the check-out process too complex or time consuming. Keep the cart simple and secure. Much that needs to be done is common sense. It may be a stretch, but imagine that you are a first time visitor. How do things look to you now?

In addition to being user friendly to customers, a website also needs to be friendly to search engine web crawlers. Is your content actual text or is it part of an image? Can a web crawler easily access every site page regardless of the landing page?

You can’t get there from here you say? Check things over. Keep the site up-to-date and easy to use. Work with your web designer and SEO company. Evaluate and test your conversion process frequently. When your customers can get there from here, they will come back again and again.