Whoever works with websites, apps or whatever-user-interface, sooner or later runs into the concept of usability, “[…] the ease of use and learnability of a human-made object […]” (Wikipedia).
Which shouldn’t come as a surprise, realizing how much harder it would be to navigate Wikipedia if text was indistinguishable from hyperlinks. Or how much less you’d be buying at Alibaba if the shopping cart went missing.
Let’s take an example from every day life: how every 100 milliseconds in load time brings down Amazon.com conversion by 1% (Website Optimization, Andrew B. King).
The power of usability is in a satisfied user. A user who hangs around on your site longer. Recommends your website to others. Subscribes to your newsletter. Who repeatedly comes back. In short, a satisfied customer.
Usability from the perspective of the user
This probably all sounds logical so far. But really putting yourself in the shoes of the average user is often easier said than done.
Especially for people working on a website on a daily basis. Like marketeers running campaigns continuously. Editors writing new articles every day. And employees frequently looking up information. The websites to most of these people is too simplistic. The design uninspiring. The information out-of-date.
Try it for yourself and stare at the same website for one week, hours a day. The same text, the same images, the same navigation. You’ll soon realize where the need for change comes from.
But are they really your average users?
You can easily find the answer in your visitor statistics. The percentage of first time visits* in the past month is considerable. In some cases even up to 90%!
Users who see the website for the very first time. Maybe for a few minutes. Who don’t know the design. Who don’t know the navigation. Or maybe visited once before and cleared their cookies. Who have a mild sense of recognition of the current website. And enjoy that feeling. To not have to learn anew how a website works.
People just want to get in, get their stuff done, and get out. They don’t want to learn. (Useit.com)
Be the average user
The solution? Forget what you think you know and test it! Be the average user and try to do step-by-step what you think your visitors are there to do. Ask a colleague. Ask a friend or a family member.
- What works well?
- What works less well?
- What works as expected?
- What annoys them?
Every test is better than no test and offers a wealth of information. To further fine tune your site to your real visitors. To turn potential and existing customers into satisfied customers.
Besides asking people close to you, there is also plenty of online experiment software out there. Even free tools, like Analytics Content Experiments (integrated in Google Analytics) and Google Optimize.
* in Google Analytics under Audience > Behavior > New vs Returning