By Sarah Camp, Interactive Communications Director
Building a website for usability is a key factor to lead generation. On the web, usability determines the efficiency of a website or application, how easy it is to learn, and the level of satisfaction after using it. If usability is poor, a user will leave or be less likely to complete desired actions, which means they won’t be turned into a lead – and probably won’t be back.
The 5 Quality Components of Usability (as defined by Jakob Neilsen) are:
- Learnability: How easy is it for users to accomplish basic tasks the first time they encounter the design?
- Efficiency: Once users have learned the design, how quickly can they perform tasks?
- Memorability: When users return to the design after a period of not using it, how easily can they reestablish proficiency?
- Errors: How many errors do users make, how severe are these errors, and how easily can they recover from the errors?
- Satisfaction: How pleasant is it to use the design?
The best way to measure usability and determine where improvements should be made is through user testing. In order to properly test, we provide an environment where the user is free from distraction and ask them to complete specific tasks. While they are completing the tasks, we time them, take notes on their comments or mistakes, and note any differences among users. We typically record user testing on video to ensure more accurate data review and assessment later (it’s also quite an eye opener to hear some of the comments made during testing; many clients find it beneficial).
Since we work with clients that have similar target audiences, we know a lot of the things to look for, and don’t necessarily need to go through the user testing process for every site. We can use tools like Google Analytics to determine problem areas, and make suggestions based on experience. However, some projects will need that extra step, especially sites that have recently been redesigned, where you may not want to invest in a whole new website.
You can improve usability further by running A/B tests to determine features that work best for converting your target audience. An A/B test compares two versions of a web page (version A and version B), or two versions of a component on a web page, to see which performs better. The versions could vary in design or copy elements. One version will be served to half of your users, while the other version will be served to the other half. When you’re satisfied with the results, you can then implement the better performing version for all users.
The ways to improve usability will vary greatly from site to site and with the needs of your users. The best way to find out what you need to focus on is by running the aforementioned user tests. However, there are many important base components to consider, especially when planning a new site.
First and foremost, we look at your navigation – this is the base of your information architecture (IA). Information architecture focuses on how content is organized – how information is organized, structured, and presented to users. It can include navigation, as well as the order of information and other elements on your page. Does the location of pages make sense in the navigation? Will users be able to easily find the information they are looking for, and will it logically lead them to the next topic? How about calls-to-action? Are they relevant to the page content and located where users will be ready for them? In a new site development process, you may see site maps and wireframes to represent this stage.
The second component to consider is the design. There are three main design theories that lead to good usability. The first being user interface design (UI), which focuses on anticipating what users may need to do and when they will need to do it. It ensures the interface has elements that are easy to access, understand, and use to complete those actions. This goes hand-in-hand with information architecture. Where information architecture is the planning of this step, user interface design is the implementation.
Next is interaction design (IxD), which focuses on creating a system that is engaging and intuitive, to ensure users will want to complete the actions. Is the navigation friendly? Are users able to find what they are looking for? Are buttons enticing? Do they support the actions that users want to perform? Then we look at the visual design, and creating an aesthetically pleasing interface in line with brand goals. All of this contributes to user experience (UX), which involves a person’s behaviors, attitudes, and emotions.
Third, we create a content strategy. The content strategy ensures all content is useful, relevant, and planned out. This can include content on the main site pages, content found on your blog and elsewhere on the web, for SEO purposes.
The last thing we build into the site for usability is accessibility best practices. Accessibility refers to the practice of making websites usable for people of all abilities [and disabilities]. For example, when a site is coded to be accessible, textual equivalents will be provided for images, and links will be named meaningfully to help blind users who are using text-to-speech software. When links are underlined (or otherwise visually differentiated) as well as colored, this ensures that colorblind users will be able to notice them. We also implement keyboard-friendly menus for users with fine motor skill reduction. Think about accessibility on a website the same as installing a handicap ramp at your place of business. Not only does it benefit every business, but I’m sure you can see it’s extremely important for the senior living audience!
[bctt tweet=”Being user-centric gives your #seniorliving organization’s #website an advantage in search engine placement.” via=”no”]
Effects on SEO
Being user-centric gives your site an advantage in search engine placement. Google values user-centric content and code, and has algorithms to measure both. Because of this, implementing usability will improve SEO and traffic. It also reduces bounce rates and improves other important analytics stats.
Return on Investment
According to Nielsen, investing in a web development team that properly understands and incorporates usability can, on average, double a website’s desired quality metrics. This means doubling incoming leads or other key performance indicators (KPI).
We’ve seen such success with our client sites’ conversion rates. On pickersgillretirement.org, augsburg.org, and peterbeckercommunity.com we see double the national average for conversion rates. On springmoor.org we see three times the national average for the conversion rate on their main contact form (in addition, they receive leads through other forms on the site).
When choosing a web partner, be sure they have in-depth usability knowledge. Web design isn’t just about making an attractive site – it’s about making a site that is usable for all visitors, makes it easy for them to find what they are looking for and designing it in a way that captures your brand. Most importantly, it should entice users to convert into leads. Usability is the key to increased visitors, increased inquiries, and increased sales!