Articles in The 'Usability' Tag

May 21 2008

Thinking About Site Loyalty, SEO

by Jordan Sandford

People may think, “If I build it, they will come.” Why then the need for SEO?

Other people may think, “Once they found my site, my job is done.” Consider that if they see your site in the search engine results page, but don’t click on it, the job is not finished. If they actually visit your site, your job could be considered half done.

After that, the next important thing to consider is visitor loyalty. As with appearing on search engine results pages and with gaining visitors, loyalty can be measured, and measuring is a must if you’re serious about your online presence.

But how can you actually improve loyalty? Before I discuss that, let me first say that loyalty must be a high priority for your site’s long term success. If you’re looking for a book retailer and if you type “books” (without quotes) in Google, currently will be the first paid result. There will also be plenty of other sites vying for your click, however (both paid and organic results): “borders” is in the “Related search” line at the top and Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Powell’s are organic results on the first page. Simply put, Google tells us that this search has over 1.5 billion results. That’s a lot of competition!

It’s clear from this Google results page that Amazon firmly believes in SEO and SEM, but it’s also notable that they highly value loyalty. I’ve seen colleagues go directly to and search for a name of a CD album they were talking to me about. They wanted me to hear a song by the artist. So, they knew that had that CD-sample feature by previous experience and thus it didn’t take more than five seconds for my colleague to run the search, navigate in the search results page, and use the CD-sample feature. (This ease of use can also be due to great usability design.)

Of course, you can increase site loyalty by offline means including better brand recognition. To increase site loyalty using an online method, try usability studies. It was once thought that the best way to do this is by using focus groups. If you’ve never conducted usability studies, let me suggest user testing with just one or two well-selected people. Chances are, it will cheaper than a group, take less time to manage, and possibly more comfortable for the person being tested. However, I suggest keeping the study formal in an attempt to ensure your data is accurate.

The real benefit to a one or two person usability study is a deeper understanding of how your site or parts of your site answers the user’s problems. Let me explain. Internet users are seeking solutions to problems they have, whether the problem is finding a replacement cell phone for their friend by next Monday, finding a group of people whose input about trade show venues can be trusted, or finding the most effective charity organization to donate funds for the Far Eastern natural disaster relief. Having to study the interaction between the user and the site for the one test user and responding to their interaction with further questions about how aspects of your site’s design helped solved their problems will be much easier compared to the difficulty of creating questions that could apply to the entire group of test users. Aspects of your site that you might focus on could include information design, usability (including content targeting/amount), visitor involvement, and customer service.

February 15 2008

Usability vs Design

by Jessica Hammer

The hardest parts of a website re-design or improvement are the aspects of the site that are not immediately visible. We can all form a quick opinion on the look and feel of a site, but critical aspects, like usability, navigation and user experience, are harder to assess. The way a visitor can and does move through a site shapes their experience on that site in a significant way. It is not enough to make a site clean, informative and aesthetically pleasing, the controls and navigation must be intuitive and clear as well. Page organization under category topics must be logical and functional. Once the user has found the desired information, they must be able to easily navigate back to the start, or onto related pages.

It is often difficult for designers and developers to assess the usability of a site, as they tend to be over-familiar with the design and the back-end, and have never been a true user of the site. When implementing a re-design or new navigation, have colleagues and associates test the site for these navigational and usability issues, and take their feedback seriously. Watch how they navigate through the menu, and how they use features of the site to find desired information. Then, if you must, give up some design high ground, and modify your structure to give your visitors the smoothest possible experience!

January 8 2007

If Only AJAX Were SEO Friendly, Or Is It?

by MoreVisibility

AJAX allows a developer to query a local or remote data source and render that content right to the browser without refreshing or reloading the page. This gives the user a much more responsive experience, if you have ever used Google Maps or the new web apps like Google’s Docs & Spreadsheets beta, you will no doubt understand the power of this wonderful technology. Now with all the new AJAX toolkits out there it is easier then ever to dive in and use this technology in your web projects. Expect to see it in use very often in the coming years.

Recently I tried to find any information I could regarding SEO and AJAX. I have had much fun playing with it in the past and wanted get back into it, but this time I am questioning it from a SEO perspective. I have yet to find a good reliable solution to get AJAX content indexed.

Even though I love AJAX, It has one MAJOR downfall. In a typical AJAX application the “meat” of the content is in javascript which means that search engines will never get to see that content you have put so much time into making. One way around this that I know of would be to create a plain HTML version of your content just for the search engines or those without browsers that support javascript, but this is not ideal by any means.

Until search engines are able to parse content out of javascript I would stay away from using AJAX for anything that involves content you would want indexed. For now I guess AJAX is still in the same boat as Flash. I will continue to look more into this topic, If anyone has any ideas please comment.

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