Usability is a serious concern for many websites – what does the customer want when he arrives on your website? Does the user know where to go, what to do and how to ask questions or enquire / purchase?
Knowing the usability heuristics is already a very good start, but how can you make sure your website can be enjoyed by as many people as possible without causing headaches or frustration?
1. What is your message?
Your homepage is your shop window. You need to clearly communicate who you are and what you are offering. Clear language, strong imagery and clean feature panels will tell your visitors what it is they can expect to find on your website.
Remember though, whatever you do (products, structure, layout, navigation and call to actions) needs to communicate in the same way throughout the website, after all not everyone will arrive through the homepage.
2. Clear navigation
Clear navigation is the key for a user to find his / her way around a website, especially if you are trying to sell a product or a service. How does a user get from the homepage or landing page to a product? How does he / she find out related information about the product / service?
Researching your users and their behaviour will really help, who is your target market? What websites do they use? Why does competitor A use certain navigation or label conventions compared to competitor B?
Quick-links (be it in the footer, in a drop-down or “most popular links”) can improve user experience, and a search can come in handy as well – if used right and is relevant to what you are trying to sell.
3. Categorise your products or services
Every user has different requirements when browsing through a website, and certain product categories need to reflect that.
A very good example is the power tools and fixings industry, are “pipe clips” under “plumbing” or under “fixings”?
It is important to understand your product structure clearly and to provide enough information for a user to recover from an error or allow products / services to appear under more than one category if applicable. Either way, the categories need to show a clear structure, even if that means that the categories on your website are slightly different from the ones in your catalogue.
4. Usable content
Content can be useful, but is it usable? What does a user want to know before committing to making an enquiry or purchase? Do they want a novel-sized description or just clear facts?
Clear, concise content and imagery to back the product / service up is king. Relevant additional content (e.g. “customers who bought this item also bought….”) can really help make an additional sale as well.
User-interaction – in form of product ratings or reviews – can also help not only make an informed purchase, but also encourage users to ask questions and come back to your site.
5. Clear and easy to understand calls to action
Your content may be great now, but what about the final call to action? Do users know where to click to make an enquiry or a purchase? Is the call to action easy to spot and clear to understand?
Providing clear calls to action is vital, easy to spot “more details”, “what’s included” and “buy now” give users the option to read more or buy right now without having to read more or do more clicks than necessary. This avoids confusion and makes it obvious what is required next.