Easy to use websites increase sales. Glasgow Web Design are website usability experts, based in Scotland

Website Usability

Website usability shows how to build an easy to use website, because easy to use websites are vastly more effective at generating sales.

Research shows that simply attracting the right visitors and having the right content is not enough to make a successful website if your website is badly-organised or hard-to-use, your visitors will quickly get frustrated and leave.

Glasgow Web Design understand the importance of designing websites that are easy to use, and will prioritise website usability when building your new site. To discuss website usability please call us now on 0141 424 3408.

How Traditional Shops Are Used

The aims of a traditional bricks-and-mortar shop are to maximise the amount of time people spend there, to maximise the number of products you are exposed to, and to maximise the number and value of items purchased. A lot of time and money has gone into researching how people use traditional shops, particularly supermarkets, and a number of fairly common patterns of use have developed.

For example, it is common practice to place essentials near the back of shops (eg milk in supermarkets, or changing rooms in clothes shops). Customers then have to wander through the whole shop to find these essential items, and are more likely to make impulse purchases. Supermarkets routinely change the location of particular items in order to expose regular customers to a wider range of products. Popular items are located in the middle of long aisles for the same reason. Shelf space is physically limited, so items that are not purchased often may be replaced with more popular products. Items are sometimes promoted at a loss in the expectation that people will continue to buy them when the price goes back up. And last-minute, high-profit impulse buys like chocolate and batteries are aimed at customers waiting at supermarket checkouts.

How Websites Are Used

Research suggests that the way people use websites is very different to the way they use traditional shops. Most people find it very convenient to shop for food at their local supermarkets, and the cost in terms of time and effort of going elsewhere to shop is quite high. But because the cost of time and effort in switching to a different website is virtually non-existent, many of the techniques used by traditional shops are actually extremely counter-productive when used on websites. But it is possible to make a number of general recommendations about website usability.

Websites Should Highlight Important Content

Whereas supermarkets might hide essentials at the back of the store to encourage people to explore, websites should display important content prominently. This means highlighting important content on the homepage, and making it clear how to reach the important content from every other page on the site. If your website does not make clear the existence and location of important content, people will just give up and leave.

Websites Should Be Fast And Simple

When online, people have the expectation of finding the relevant information quickly and easily. Having a slow-loading website can cost you impatient customers. Generally people who arrive on your website following a search engine query will have one or more specific objectives, such as checking product availability, or finding your email address. Every little obstacle or delay in finding the required information, accessing contact details, or purchasing the desired product will cause frustrated visitors to leave your website.

Websites Should Build Trust And Credibility

It is important for companies to build trust and credibility online. Because the internet offers a high degree of anonymity, it is common for business to appear a little impersonal or faceless. Email spam, viruses, spyware, data protection breaches, scams, phishing, credit-card fraud, identity fraud, fake blogs and inaccurate Wikipedia entries are just some of the problems that have led many people to (rightly) place less trust in websites. Sponsored listings on search engine results pages are known to be trusted less than websites that have high natural search rankings. People have learned to ignore certain types of online advertising, and there are numerous tools available to help block many types of adverts from appearing at all. Building credibility is therefore a major part of website usability because if people encounter a website that looks too much like spam or advertising then they will leave.

Websites Should Use Standard Web Conventions

Many websites share common elements of style and usability, ranging from the position of the company logo to the colour of text links. Although you are free to customise these elements, people have grown to expect websites to work in a certain way, and by not conforming to standard web conventions you may confuse or frustrate visitors to your site.

Here are some examples of standard web conventions that you should consider using in your website:

Websites Should Prioritise Navigation

Website navigation remains one of the most important aspects of website usability. Popular wisdom says that no page should be more than three clicks from your homepage, and while this is an oversimplification it is obvious that your most important content should be instantly reachable from every page.

Navigation menus should also be consistent across the site (with the possible exception of the homepage), and should give a clear impression of the organisational structure of the site. If people get lost or confused by your navigation system they will leave.

Websites Should Make Purchasing Simple

It is estimated that around 75% of online shopping carts are abandoned before the sale is closed. There are many reasons for this very high rate, including customers becoming confused or distracted, indecision, unexpected shipping costs, lengthy registration or checkout procedures. To reduce the potential for confusion and distraction, online checkouts should be very simple and clear, unlike supermarket checkouts. Designing easy-to-use websites can make purchasing items fast, simple and painless, which will greatly reduce abandonment rates and increases sales.

Websites Should Focus On Your Customers

The above characteristics are only generalisations, and as you would expect there are variations in how different groups of people use the internet - for example between men and women, and between younger and older age groups. Where most of your business comes from a particular demographic (for example, 20-30 year olds who want the latest gadgets, or 50-60 year olds who like outdoor pursuits) then it is important to design your website to suit the expectations of your typical customers. If people arrive at a website that doesn't match their expectations then they will leave.

There Are Many Competing Websites

Website usability is so important because of the ease with which customers can shop elsewhere. You might persevere with an unhelpful sales assistant in person because you know the only other stockists are located several miles away and it is raining outside. But Google and the other search engines provide people with tens or hundreds of alternative business listings, in a matter of seconds. People are only too aware of where to find the 'back' button, and if your website doesn't satisfy their requirements then they will leave.

Website Usability Is Becoming More Important

As the internet matures as a platform, the way people interact with websites and their expectations are also changing. The internet is no longer a novelty, a goal in itself, but is fast becoming an every-day tool. People use the internet regularly for a number of different purposes - booking flights, buying books and DVDs, accessing news, researching products and services, and finding new ways to socialise. Website usability will only become more important as people become increasingly task-oriented and less tolerant of websites that are slow or difficult to use.

Website Usability in Scotland

Glasgow Web Design are committed to designing highly usable websites for our clients in Scotland, the UK and Ireland. We have a good understanding of many aspects of website usability, including ease-of-use, building credibility, using web conventions, designing navigation systems, and targeting particular demographics. For specific web usability advice or to discuss your project please call now on 0141 424 3408.

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