According to Jakob Nielsen the guru of website usability, people’s motivations for using the web are very specific:

“Most people just want to get in, get it and get out… For them the web is not a goal in itself. It is a tool.”

Usability is about ensuring that your website is ‘fit-for-purpose’, and that your customers can do what they want to, quickly and easily.

According to IBM, every £1 you invest in making your site more usable can result in returns up to £100.

Websites have changed their appearance considerably over the past 10 years and this has been the result of user research as well as technological advances, including higher spec computers and faster connections speeds.

Basic research studies have revealed that when reading a website, people’s eyes do not move in a logical left to right movement as they would on pages of a book. Instead people are much more likely to scan the page in an F pattern or a circular motion. This has influenced web design in 4 main ways:

1. Since the customer’s journey begins on the left hand side, company logos are placed in the top left hand corner of the page and in most cases this logo has become the homepage short cut button from any page on the website.

2. In order to help those who need more assistance when it comes to navigating websites and finding the content they originally went to the site for, search boxes have been built into the top of the homepage to speed up the process.

3. Research studies demonstrate that content at the centre of the page receives the most attention, and dwell time, from the customer and therefore the most important content or message should appears here.

4. People’s eyes then tend to veer right of centre and this is where most websites now house their next most important set of messages or content.

However although all of these website optimisation techniques are based on sound usability principles, they may not necessarily apply to your website. The only way to really understand how people use your site and how you can improve their experience is by undertaking a usability study.

At Soprano we use a ‘task based’ approach to assessing usability. Working with clients, and surveying their customers, we first define ‘what must the site do to succeed’. We then design a series of tasks which test just this, and observe typical users undertaking the task to see if the site is ‘fit-for-purpose’.

Using tracking technologies, including ‘eye tracking’, we can build up a comprehensive profile of how the user interacts with the website. This can then be used to inform changes and make improvements to layouts and process.

And it can be very cost effective. For less than £10,000 you can gain a wealth of information about your website which on the basis of IBM’s research can be turned into a very significant return.

Our Services at a Glance

* Strategy and Planning
* Creative and Design
* User Experience
* Interactive Development

* Website Creation
* Digital Marketing
* Online Advertising
* Interactive Content

www.sopranodigital.com

© Soprano Digital

Published on: 4:01PM on 4th August 2009