Evaluating Your Website for Usability

Lauren Owens - April 16, 2013

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?
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.

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