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April 16 2013

Evaluating Your Website for Usability

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Website usability is the key to a healthy, productive website and happy customers. Because a site that lacks focus, uniformity and usability can undermine the main goal of your website, it’s important to take a step back every now and again and ask yourself whether or not your website is truly working.

To do this, you’ll have to step into your users’ shoes.

This can be extremely useful, and may help you find answers to questions that frequently plague webmasters and business owners, such as:

Why do so many purchases get abandoned in the shopping cart?
Why is one page/product so much more popular than another?
or
Why is my bounce rate so high?

Ready to look at your website with fresh eyes?

If you’re ready to take a critical look at your website, take a step back and pretend you don’t know anything about your business. Maybe you have a question related to a certain product or service; or maybe you, like your users, have come to a particular page after performing a search for a keyword.

Whatever the case, it’s important to look at your site from a few perspectives. Take a look, for example, at the homepage, an interior page, the contact page, and the shopping cart.

From the homepage ask:

  • Where does your eye go? (Are these the things you want your users to look at? Why?)
  • Are you able to quickly ascertain precisely what it is the business does?
  • Are you able to easily find what you’re looking for? (From the search bar; the page links; and the header and footer navigation.)
  • Is the messaging (both visual and textual) targeted to the core audience?

From an interior page, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does the second-level navigation make sense?
  • Do the calls to action make sense?
  • Are you offered links to additional, similar content?
  • Does the breadcrumb navigation help you understand where you are?

From the contact page, ask yourself:

  • Are you offered several ways to contact and “follow” the business?
  • Are you given an idea of what will happen after you attempt contact?
  • Are you offered any “next steps” after filling out a contact form?
  • Are there things on this page that might not belong? (Calls to action, 2nd-level navigation, etc.)

From the shopping cart, ask yourself:

  • How many clicks does it take to complete a purchase?
  • Do I have to sign up, or can I check out as a guest?
  • Am I able to calculate shipping costs early in the checkout process?
  • Am I offered time-saving payment options, such as a saved credit card number or the ability to use PayPal?
  • How long does it take to check out, from beginning to end?

By looking at these aspects with fresh eyes, and an open mind, you will be able to see whether or not your website’s tools, content, and organization, is truly doing what you need it to do: engage your customers with useful content while moving them seamlessly from introduction to conversion.

If it’s not, it may be time to take a step back and begin to think about how you can reorganize your website and retarget your content to make the most out of every pair of eyes that finds your site.

January 16 2013

Get Your Mobile House in Order in 2013

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The research firm emarketer released so-called M-Commerce numbers for 2012 last week, and the numbers were staggering. Emarketer estimates that mobile shopping jumped 81% overall last year to nearly $25 billion, capturing 15% of all online sales.

And that’s just the beginning. Emarketer estimates that sales from tablets and mobile phones combined will jump to more than 37 billion this year.

This isn’t surprising when you consider that mobile customers are everywhere. When they’re not “second-screening,” they’re shopping for shoes while pumping gas, looking for a broker while enjoying a latte, or sending flowers while waiting in line at the bank.

In order to take advantage of these trends, you not only need a mobile website, you have to make sure that people can find it.

That’s why it’s time to get your mobile house in order.

If you don’t have a mobile website, get one. If have one, make sure it’s search engine optimized, while ensuring your mobile content is user-friendly.

From there, make sure potential customers can find you by encouraging social and review site users to check in, running ads that target mobile devices, and sending them to simple, user-friendly landing pages with click-to-buy-capability where applicable.

Do these things and you stand the chance of having a very, very good year.

November 8 2012

Mobile Site Best Practices

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Mobile devices are changing the way that users interact with the web. This means that your site has to be ready for the onslaught of mobile users who want fast, digestible information at their fingertips. But what makes a winning mobile website?

In a word, brevity. The best mobile sites offer limited content that focuses on key information and calls to action. To accomplish this, it’s important that you:

  • Limit scrolling
  • Use bullets
  • Use white space to give your users’ eyes a break

The best mobile sites help bridge the digital divide by turning passive users into living, breathing customers. They do this by offering:

  • Special features such as check-in offers and mobile-only deals
  • Click-to-call functionality
  • GPS functionality

Of course, you have to make it easy for users to find your mobile site in the first place. Unlike desktop search, where content is king, mobile SEO is all about design. Specifically, Google is looking for mobile friendly design that offers users the best possible on-page experience. Google has indicated that the most optimized mobile sites will be built using responsive design and device-specific HTML.

Outside of following Google’s best practices, you can drive traffic to your mobile site by:

  • Linking the QR codes on your printed ad copy to your mobile site
  • Making your website location friendly by adding location information directly on your homepage

None of this means that keywords are out. The content on your mobile site — however limited — should be optimized for your business, purpose and audience. That’s a best practice that will never go out of style.

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