According to a recent study, implementing website usability enhancements can increase your online ROI by 83%*.
Consider a few examples:
- A major online retailer experienced a 3,000% increase in sales for a consumables product category within one week after implementing changes to the homepage based off consumer insight from usability testing studies.
- A major consumer products manufacturer utilized usability studies to identify a new online shopping model for one of its product categories. The result was that 99% of people indicated they would purchase from their online catalog versus only 40% that said they would purchase from other website options.
Let’s face it, companies invest significant resources into developing, maintaining and promoting their websites – and for good reason. A company website is often the first place potential customers go to learn more about your firm and determine if they want to take the next step – turning interest into action.
But is your company maximizing its online ROI? When new visitors come to your site, is it what they expected? Can they find the information they’re looking for or accomplish what they intended to do? Is it better and more intuitive than competitor websites? Do you really know if it’s working and what prospects think?
Many companies do not.
Thus, the invaluable role that a usability assessment can provide. Usability refers to how intuitive and user friendly your website is to the target audience and encompasses everything from site design to content, navigation, categorization, and functionality. The beauty of usability reviews is that it is extremely flexible and can be accomplished in many different ways for any type of website or online tool. And, it can be incorporated at any point of the development process.
Perhaps the most effective and enlightening approach is a usability testing study in which people are observed navigating your website and verbalize their thoughts as they go along. Many studies will also compare your website to the competition, providing even greater insight into how well your website fares against others and what you should be doing differently. Let’s face it, you don’t really know how effective your website is until your hear it from your target market firsthand. This type of study is invaluable in identifying where problems exist and how to solve them. And, they can be conducted in a lab environment, on site or even remotely.
Expert reviews are another excellent usability assessment alternative. With an expert review, you get a customized, holistic look at your website from people who specialize in usability and understand online best practices. A usability expert will conduct an in-depth review of your website and provide a detailed analysis of key findings and strategic recommendations. Some usability experts will also take recommendations to the next step, providing wireframe designs to describe improvements or even producing design mock-ups. Often, usability experts can consult directly with your online marketing and development teams to determine the most effective way to implement critical changes.
For a quick pulse on your website’s performance, consider having a market audit conducted. Market audits provide a quantitative assessment and scorecard rating for how well your website conforms to a pre-determined checklist of online best practice areas. Specific audit processes vary, but often encompass a review of the homepage, search engine, page design, content, navigation, categorization, functionality and value-added features. This is generally the fastest and most economical usability review and can be conducted on just your website or on competitor websites as well, providing interesting insight into how your website compares.
If you are considering developing a new website or online tool, design reviews play a critical role in ensuring effectiveness before you make a significant investment in development. Usability experts serve as a consultant reviewing site designs and identifying potential user challenges and recommended solutions. For an even greater understanding of the design effectiveness, usability testing studies can be conducted on paper or online mock-ups. Some usability experts will also help lead design early on through information architecture and wireframe structures that the development team then uses as a blueprint for creating a more effective and intuitive online experience.
Whether assessing a corporate website, intranet, extranet, e-commerce site, search engine, or product selection and configuration tool, usability reviews will identify critical changes for increasing effectiveness and can significantly impact your online ROI.
So, do you really know how effective your website is? You just might want to find out.
Dana Kraft, president of RarePoint Strategies and a Stratus Launch Marketing Associate, has over 20 years of experience leading innovative usability, research, and online marketing programs for companies including Hewlett-Packard, Kodak, Intel, and Blue Cross. As a strategic consultant, Dana has the unique capability of combining in-depth traditional and online marketing knowledge with usability expertise and an understanding of the website development process. This well-rounded approach allows her to pinpoint unique strategies that are most critical to a company’s success.
*”Usability ROI declining, but still strong”, Jakob Nielsen’s AlertBox, January 22, 2008.