What if you built a site and all the right people showed up, but none of them bought anything? What if you looked at your traffic reports and analytics and you saw traffic streaming in in droves for all the keywords that perfectly describe what you do? What if you had killer content and tens of thousands of links, but sales were flat? What if you knew you had the best prices or the most unique offerings in town and STILL no one was buying?
What would you do?
Would you realize you probably had some usability issues? Hopefully. (If not, let's hope I just clued you in.)
So what do you do about it?
What if it's Not Them, it's You?
Sometimes it's the simplest things that throw people off course. Earlier this year, the guy who heads up our analytics department stumbled across something interesting. We had a site that was built with a fluid design. (Meaning as you expanded your browser window, the content of the site stretched out to fill the space.) He noticed the primary conversion point on the web site was in the upper right hand corner of the site. That meant that as the browser window grew larger, the conversion point moved further and further away from where people's eyes naturally looked.
He dug into the analytics for the site and sure enough, as a user's screen resolution increased, their conversion rates went down. It didn't matter how targeted the traffic coming in from the search results was, a major usability issue on the site was standing in the way of their conversion.
Restructuring the site to place the conversion point in a better position that wasn't affected by screen resolution did wonders for the site's conversions, giving the client an increase in leads and sales without us ever having to drive a single new search visitor.
The Mom TestIn the world of small business where staffs are small and budgets are tight, shelling out for a usability analysis isn't always (ok, is almost never) feasible. Heck, many small businesses are already digging spare change from the couch in the lounge just to pay their hosting bills. That's why it's important to remember the single most cost-effective usability tool you have in situations like this: your mother.
Don't have a mother? That's fine, get the mother of one of your employees. Get the mother of your SEO (but not mine, she's so web savvy she runs backlink checks), or the mother of your accountant. Any mom will do, though it's best if she's over the age of 50.
Then sit her down at your site and ask her to do whatever it is you want someone to do. That might be sign up for a newsletter, it might be purchase a product or it might be download a white paper. Just start her off on the site with no instructions other than "do this." Then watch.
If she can't quickly and easily find her way to what it is you want her to do, chances are good you've got some usability problems. If you're standing behind her wanting to yell "it's right THERE!!!" while she leans forward and stares at the screen, you've definitely got usability problems.
Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.
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