Premiere Issue December 2001
a Good Hard Look
In this premiere issue I'm going to encourage you to
take a hard and objective look at your website. I'm even going to
encourage you to call your most blunt and tactless friends to help out
with this. Why? Because I want you to get the 2 x 4 to the head wake up
call like I mentioned in the introduction.
The usability of your site is critical to getting people
to stay on your site. If they get frustrated with too many choices and
confusing navigation, they will be gone in no time and you can be sure
they won't be back.
Here's what I want you to do:
1. Think about the main types of visitors that
you want to come to your website. In my case at http://www.antion.com
there are two types of visitors. One is a person who wants to be a
speaker and the other is a person who needs a speaker for an event. Who
do you want to visit your site?
2. Pretend you are one of those people. Go to
your home page and see if the choices are really simple and that you
have a choice specifically designed for that type of visitor. In my case
I have a navigation button called "Need a Speaker." This
button takes that type of visitor down a path specifically designed to
give them the information they need. I don't want to give them too many
choices right at the home page because it will likely confuse them.
other type of visitor I have is a person who wants to be a speaker. I
give them a navigation button all their own to take them down a separate
path. I don't want the person who wants to be a speaker having to wade
through all the stuff that the other type of visitor is looking for. I
give them both separate paths right from the home page. It's kind of
like separating them at birth.
I don't expect you to be
very good at this because you are way too close to the situation. This
leads us to number 3.
3. Get someone else to play
the role of one of your types of visitors. Get them to sit at their
computer and seek out the information that that type of visitor would
want. Have them jot down every question that comes to their mind along
the way. Do not coach them in advance of what to look for and do not
talk to them on the phone while they are doing this. Just let them do
it. When they are done have them report to you the trouble they had
along with the questions that arose while they were trying to get the
Next, have someone sit at your computer and
do the same thing. Get a piece of leather to bite on to keep yourself
from talking to them while they are doing this. Videotape them if you
can. You will be amazed at the questions that will come up and the
trouble that they will have finding the information. Absolutely refuse
to talk to them until they are done or so frustrated that they quit.
This may hurt, but it is better to uncover problems with the usability
of your site now rather than two years down the road when you have no
traffic and no sales.
Repeat number 3 for each type of
visitor that you are looking for and use several different people that
don't know much about your business to do this exercise.
This exercise is a pain in the neck, hurtful
emotionally and probably one of the best learning experiences you'll
ever have. Don't cheat. Don't say a word to the people helping you
because no one will be there to coach a real potential client who visits
your site from their home or office. If your site isn't usable, then
they'll leave and go find another one that is.
After you compile the information and uncover the
problem area, look at your site again and reduce the number of choices
on your home page to the bare minimum to send the visitors down their
separate paths. Fix any other usability problems you uncover.
go to the library. Look at your website on the older, crumby and cheap
computers they have there. You again will be shocked at what you learn.
Your site will likely look much different on a different computer.
download and install both Internet explorer (about 85% of the big two
browser market) and Netscape Navigator (about 15% of the big two browser
market). Don't forget to look at it on AOL which is a different animal
Remember to always create your site for the
lowest common denominator so that it loads lightening fast and looks
relatively good on all the major browsers.
we'll talk about creating a sales flow on your site to get customers to
pull their wallet out and spend money with you.
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