Better usability equals better ROI
If there is one thing I’ve learnt about the digital industry, it’s that the web and its technology change at a lightning fast rate. In just a few years, people have come to expect to be able to do everything online: from buying almost anything you can think of to renewing your car tax, from managing all your finances online to storing all your files on the web, and that’s the way it should be. In fact, if you are not offering your customers self-service, your competitors probably are.
We’ve come a long way from those halcyon days of the 1990s where websites were a few content pages and a handful of forms; now, a business’s website is a gateway to all of its business systems with an ever increasing number of business processes automated.
Underneath the surface of a modern website, complex code and systems work in harmony to give the customer what they expect and make the business more efficient. And with increasing integration with IT systems, this underlying technology will keep getting more complex. This presents a real challenge for designers.
Usability is more critical than ever
With customer expectations and website complexity increasing ever more, it is all too easy for website interfaces to become cluttered and unusable. So it is more important than ever to make it easy for them; or, in web speak, to focus on the usability. In this day and age, I advise clients to keep remembering this little mantra: usability sells.
When designing your website, there is one important thing to remember: it is not yours, it belongs to your users. They are the ones with the problems that you are trying to solve and they must find it a joy to use. The benefits of offering customers great usability can be far more reaching than you might have thought.
Some areas where you might get a better return on investment from focusing on website usability:
- Increased sales or member sign-ups – an example might be making a checkout process easier, with no distractions or blocks
- Satisfied customers are loyal customers – if they are happy with their experience, they will return
- Increased productivity (internal systems) – making tasks easier for staff saves time, can decrease training need and reduce customer service costs
How can I improve the usability of my website?
You probably already know what you are trying to achieve with your digital strategy, or what the internal process issues are in your business. If you don’t, take a step back and identify your business objectives and be totally clear on what you want the results to be. This will give you a clear starting point to identify which areas of your websites or systems to focus on first.
There are a number of techniques that are used to improve usability. Here are some suggestions as to how you can get the sorts of results I have mentioned above:
- Analytics analysis – your website stats will show you where users are dropping out of the sales funnel so you can focus on the right step
- Run focus groups – find out what users really want from your company and your website – you’re sure to discover a few gems which you can address via your website
- Test your existing site on your users – recruit a handful of your customers (maybe in our usability lab!), and record them browsing your site (we have clever software that records their session on video) and find out what users find easy and what not.
- Test your new ideas – if you are going to assume something, test it, you’ll find out soon enough if you are doing the right thing. If you listen, your users will trust you. Use a prototype of your site, with real content if possible, and see what they think. Are they getting the message? What confuses them? What’s stopping them from finishing your sales process?
Measuring the ROI
If you’re going to spend time improving usability, it is critical you track the right metrics so you can measure what you are trying to achieve. Analyse improvements against your budget spend, so then track the ROI accordingly.
- Tracking conversions – Basic analytics (Google Analytics, say) is great, but a simple implementation will give you limited data for analysis. Spend some time implementing advanced tracking across the site that is aligned to your business objectives.
- Customer loyalty – Follow up any usability improvements with customer surveys – aim to score higher satisfaction and loyalty.
- Increased productivity – Set some benchmarks, such as the time needed to perform key tasks. Then translate this into cost savings.
For all of the above, re-test and review on a regular basis so you can continue to prove to your superiors how critical usability is to your success.
Focusing on usability makes sense
There’s nothing new about ensuring a website is easy to use. It’s just about good design. Focus groups and user testing have been present in other communication channels, such as television, for years, but they seem to be an after-thought for many digital initiatives. The irony is that digital is interactive, so website usability is paramount to success.
If you make it simple for your users, they will repay you with purchases and loyalty. Next time you think about what your business needs to achieve, start by thinking about what they would do.
And just remember: usability sells.