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





CNN.com and Interactivity

4 11 2008

No matter what your political affiliation, you no doubt have followed the election going on as we speak. As I look forward to tonight (likely a late night), I am reminded of how different things are than the were even just four or eight years ago. The Internet has both expanded and narrowed our ability to find information related to the elections.

It has expanded in that sites like YouTube are now probably viewed more for political videos more than news sites themselves! In fact, news sites are actually directing people to YouTube and others to view their videos. Plus, in general, I can search for and locate just about anything I want relative to a city, a state, a candidate or an issue. Amazing!

At the same time, I believe it has narrowed our ability because we have such specific choices to get our information from – meaning if I believe in the death penalty, gambling and underwater research, I can probably find a site that gives me all the information I need in order to choose a candidate or issue I believe in. The problem? I don’t open my eyes to all the other “issues” out there because I get so bogged down with the narrow opinions of those groups I’ve found that share my beliefs.

All this being said, I think the Web has enabled us to find what we want, when we want it. The same applies for business to business or consumer-driven web sites. Organizations should take the same approach as CNN (www.CNN.com), for instance, in that EVRYTHING on the site is tailored to the visitor – and it changes regularly, so that what I see today is different from what I saw yesterday.

It’s something to think about – taking the mindset of a new organization with regard to the content on your web site. Imagine! Imagine if you paid so much attention to the content on your site that people wanted to come back daily, even multiple times a day. What would that mean to the bottom line? Yes, it takes some dedicated time and money. But, the payoff will be there.

As you go through the next couple days, following the results of the election from tonight, think about how your web site might benefit if the same attention was given to it as the web site team at CNN!

Matt White





Dynamic Web Sites Rock!

21 10 2008

I hate it when I go to a web site expecting to see something different than the last time I was there, only to be met with the same stale press release headline in the “Latest News” section on the home page that was there three weeks ago when I visited!

With all the dynamic opportunities out there, it’s time businesses recognized the need for dynamic content on their web site. Consumers, prospects, clients, vendors…everyone expects new information when they visit a site. News sites like CNN.com and MSNBC.com and others, do an outstanding job at created and pushing out dynamic content. Literally, if I was to visit CNN.com right now, I’m 99% sure I’d see something different than I did when I logged on this morning.

Now, news sites have an advantage because their content is always changing anyway. What about the little guy who doesn’t have breaking news happening every 24 hours?? There are many other ways to make a site dynamic outside of “Latest News.” Here are a couple suggestons:

  • Automatically tie in your calendar to the home page, so visitors to the home page see dates and events change every time they visit the site
  • Include an RSS Feed from an industry news site – they already keep their information fresh, why not take advantage of that?
  • Write a series of articles that can be rotated on the home page – with a little customizing, your site is now fresh every day

There are just a few options. Depending on the industry, there are many more ways to make a site dynamic and relevant to visitors. Just think through what YOU like to see/get when you visit a web site. Should there be sound and/or video? Can you include testimonials that rotate on the site? Or portfolio samples? The possibilities are endless.

Certainly, this can be a lot easier with a content management system running the back end of your web site. And, you’d be surprised at the cost and benefits that come with a content managed site – all the things listed above (calendars, dynamically updated news feeds, web video, etc.) and then some. 

This whole “dynamic” thing isn’t going away! If your content is stale and out of date, your customers and/or prospects will go somewhere else. Definitely something consider as you look at plans for 2009.

Matt White
mwhite@igpr.com