You may have heard a bit about website ‘usability’ these days and its importance. I have studied Web usability myself, but in doing so I found that most of it was common sense—it is really about customer service and treating people well. So what exactly is usability and what is its importance for your website?
Web usability is the science of how people use your website: it is all about the user experience, how your website looks and feels to people. The user experience on the Web is really not any different than in the offline world, although there are unique determinants and measures for each user experience in life. For example—consider the user experience of automobiles. Most people would acknowledge that the Germans have an edge in this arena—take a look at the BMW, for example. Their tagline is ‘the ultimate driving machine.’ They have a powerful yet understated logo, an elegant grille and wheels, gorgeous interiors and controls, and they are—by most standards—a supreme pleasure to drive.
This also goes for German-engineered appliances—most every appliance repair person that I’ve met raves about German appliances . . . how quiet and efficient they are . . . the controls . . . the layout of the interiors . . . their simple design. Perhaps it is no coincidence that one of the foremost experts in Web usability—considered the ‘father’ of Web usability by many—is a German man named Jakob Nielsen. You might want to check out his website to learn more about how he thinks.
Now take the metaphor of these offline machines and apply them to your website. Do you have a simple and elegant logo that represents your business? Do you have an elegant-looking grille—a header piece—the first thing people see when they look at your website? Are your navigation controls well-positioned and clearly labeled? Is it a pleasure to move through your website—is it efficiently designed? Or, is it difficult or jarring to move from one page to another?
There is something to be said for a well-designed, precision website that represents your business in exactly the right way. Your website is the vehicle you are offering people when they go online to locate your business . . . think of it like an online concierge or valet. It is often the first impression people have of your business. Treat your customers to a website that is well-designed . . . that is a pleasure to drive . . . and your business will reap the rewards of your courtesy.