Usability is key to web site success

5 12 2008

Have¬†you ever¬†visited a web site with a specific action in mind (finding info, buying something, getting a phone number, whatever), but once you arrived, you spent several minutes just trying to figure out where to even start? I’m surprised that even today, with all the knowledge we have about the web and how people use it, some organizations still forget to consider usability as a major factor in designing a web site.

Even the giants forget sometimes. Just look at Yahoo! and Google, for example. Both, at their core, offer search engine functionality. But, at just a quick glance, Yahoo has so much more going on that you can get distracted (which may very well be Yahoo’s intention).

Another example: Kenton County School District in the Cincinnati area vs. Garfield Heights City Schools near Cleveland. The Kenton site, while offering a wide variety of informational options, doesn’t provide the visitor with any specific direction; instead the home page is a long list of sections within the site. Garfield Heights, on the other hand, clearly addresses the potential audiences who may visit the site – students, parents, staff, alumni and community. In a quick glance, the visitor can choose which area he/she is looking for, and in one click, get to that information.

One more example: Trinity Pension Consultants vs. Third Party Administrators. If I’m a financial advisor or a business owner looking for an organization to help administer my 401k, and I come across these two sites in my search…it’s clear who I would be calling. While Third Party Administrator requires that the visitor read nine paragraphs of content right on the home page, the Trinity Pension Consultants site provides a quick educational video on the home page, along with two distinct options for valuble “Resources.”

These are just a few examples, but you get the point. When designing a web site, the user MUST come first. It’s not about how you can best get all the information you want on one page! It’s about making it simple for the visitor (ie. your customer/prospect/partner/vendor) to find what they are looking for.

Matt
mwhite@igpr.com

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