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Web Usability

Organisations apply huge resources the world over developing a web presence in order that Internet users visit their web sites and complete desired actions. These desired actions may include purchasing products, ordering a service, retrieving information, casting a vote, completing a registration form, downloading a file or even simply contributing to a forum discussion. Regardless of the action, its completion can be regarded as the ultimate judge of SEO/SEM (search engine marketing) success. In addition, the organisation then has to ask itself whether a successful Search Engine Optimisation campaign contributes to business growth.
Action completion, through successful SEO/SEM implementation and subsequent business growth respectively involve and rely on effective web usability. Easier said than done it would seem, as studies show that:
  •    In excess of 40% of online purchase attempts fail
  •    50% of new visitors do not go beyond a site's home page
  •    Less than 10% of visitors revisit a site.
Web usability is all about developing websites in such a way that users can find what they're looking for quickly and efficiently. Web usability focuses on making it as easy as possible for visitors to navigate sites and to retrieve, input and process information. Sites should look appealing, pages load quickly and visitors not suffer unnecessary restrictions or obstructions.
Professionally applied web usability can reap huge rewards for businesses. IBM estimates that for every £1 spent on web usability, organisations enjoy a return of between £10 and £100. This analysis concurs with what seems to be an industry consensus that site redesigns with web usability as their primary objective can lead to substantial gains.
How can web usability redesign lead to such dramatically improved performance?

Web usability has a dual effect. First, it affects the navigation of a user through the website. It determines such things as the landing page, the immediate links a user is likely to follow, the call to action and the conversion page. It also involves tracking the time spent by users on particular pages and the time taken by the user to navigate to the desired information or functionality.
Typical business metrics used to measure usability include:
  •   Conversion rates, such as sales or lead generation
  •   Traffic numbers, such as page view statistics
  •   User performance, such as the time needed to perform key tasks
  •   Target feature usage, such as the number of users who click a link to crucial information
The critical question is - do your visitors do what you ultimately want them to do? If so, then how often? Is this more or less than before?
Driving traffic to the website is half the battle, having a website that actively encourages users to take a desired action might be considered to be even more important. Using conversion rate analysis informs Search Engine Optimisation decision-making and is absolutely essential in helping organisations take the right actions. It would appear that generally web usability is improving slightly as at the height of the first dot-com bubble the regular conversion rate was 1%. Today, 2% is a common conversion rate.
Informed decision making through general site analytics and conversion rate analysis can lead to the adjustment or inclusion of a variety of usability techniques. At SEO Consult we take into consideration numerous web usability factors including:
    Architecture = 80% of usability. - If users can't find what they want in 3 clicks, you've lost them. It's critical to build an effective navigational structure. In addition to this users have gradually become accustomed to particular layouts and phrases on the Internet. There are numerous conventions such as using the term 'About Us' for organisation information, the terms 'Shopping cart' and 'Check Out', the organisations logo top left with a link back to the home page. As the Internet matures users are become increasingly used to things being a certain way. Breaking conventions can damage web usability.
  •    User task flow - match page flow with user workflow.
  •    KISS - Make controls obvious and understandable. Avoid confusion between emblems, banners, and buttons.
  •    Reuse - Apply ergonomically designed templates or CSS.
  •    Test with fast and dirty prototyping throughout development -Appreciate technological limitations and compatibility. Identify and optimize for target browsers and user hardware.
  •    Understand user tolerances - Users are impatient. Usability studies have shown that 8.6 seconds is the maximum time web users will wait for a page to download Design for a 2-8 second maximum download. Reuse header graphics so they can load from cache. Avoid excessive scrolling.
  •    Multimedia - handle with care. Badly applied multimedia can slow load times, distract and confuse.
  •    Analytics - Monitor site traffic and performance. That tell you how people are navigating through the site and can inform you of the effectiveness of your site layout. They offer opportunities to engage visitors more effectively by improving the navigation experience. Top landing pages, bounce rates, conversion rates, trend analysis, geographical referrals, referring domains and keyword analysis should all be part of the performance analysis