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Website Design and German Engineering
26 January 2010
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Website Design and UsabilityYou 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.

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    1. Great post! Writing down your motivations and goals and rereading is a way to employ the wonderful power of visualization!

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    2. Beautiful and insightful post, Alexis. I'm inspired by your determination, self-discipline and thoughtful approach to setting and achieving elephant-sized goals.

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    3. Write a computer program so that anyone can perform the tasks of a CFA, saving the money on the wasted 6 figure middle person. Thus, one richer person can put more money to work cheaper. And, get richer quicker by selling said program to other companies.

      Oh! Could be why rich are getting richer and poor are getting poorer – Computer Powered cubical world programming the old individual private office with secretary out of existence till the bubble pops without the 6 figure income supporting inflated real estate value.

      Go figure, again?

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    4. Rebecca and Katie: Thanks for the kind words! Please feel free to kick in examples of how these, or other, elephant eating principals have worked for you!

      Longhairsteve: I like where you're going with this ;)

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    5. Love that you wrote down your vision and referred to it often. That is a fantastic way to stay on track, especially for projects that require so much time and dedication. I also agree with your recommendation of sharing the table with people who've got your back (and reading the book too!). You don't get extra points for doing it alone; you do increase your odds of success by recruiting a support team.

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    6. Universal truths that can be applied to many of the challenges we face during our stay on this planet. This article “hit the nail on the head” with its clarity and positive approach (such a welcome glimmer of hope in our lives). Well organized, well thought out, well written. Congratulations to you ms. Rodich!

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    7. Universal truths that can be applied to many of the challenges we face during our stay on this planet. This article “hit the nail on the head” with its clarity and positive approach (such a welcome glimmer of hope in our lives). Well organized, well thought out, well written. Congratulations to you ms. Rodich!

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