Web Site Usability Testing

Have you ever tested your web site to see if it actually works? We’ve seen some beautifully designed web sites that just don’t work. This goes back, in part to my last blog on having a Call to Action on each page. But it also goes beyond that. Once you have a call, you have to determine if people can actually accomplish it.

A couple of years ago, we decided that since we want people to call us, we should move our phone number from being buried in the footer of the page up to shouting it in the header. Within a week I had confirmation from a new customer that having the phone number up high and large helped us land the job. That’s mean by web site usability testing. Can people actually do what you want them to do?

We ran a Pay Per Click campaign for a customer for awhile. He wasn’t getting the desired results (more sales as it is an ecommerce site). We were getting him more clicks to the correct page but when we looked at the page, we saw that the “Buy Now” button was way down on the page, after a long list of products. People – CUSTOMERS – weren’t buying because they couldn’t figure out how to do so.

A great way to think about web site usability testing is Steve Krug’s favorite line: “Don’t Make Me Think!”. If visitors to your web site have to think, they’ll likely go away. If, on the other hand, the next step is obvious, they’ll likely take it.

So take a minute and go through your site, or better yet, get a real live customer to go through your site. Ask them if it makes sense to do whatever it is that you want them to do. If you want a real professional look at your web site, we can conduct a usability test but you can do a lot of testing on your own.


Google Doesn’t Play Fair

Imagine, if you will, going to the doctor for an exam. After the exam, the doctor tells you the grave news that you must have an operation immediately, the exam results show a problem. But when you ask what the problem is, the good doctor gives you a medical book and says that your problem is definitely one of the problems in there.

That’s pretty much what I feel like right now. Yesterday I was showing a potential client how to find my site in Google when I noticed a new link on the results that says “This site may harm your computer”. Trying to go www.educyber.com brings up an intermediate page warning of hell and damnation if you do visit my site.

I’ve gone to Google and to the site they work with, www.stopbadware.org and I get messages saying “Read the guidelines” but no indication of why they have made it nearly impossible to get to my site. My only recourse is to go through page after page of guidelines to see if there is possibly something I have done to offend.

Don’t get me wrong, I want to stop the bad guys and their nefarious schemes of installing spyware and trojans on computers. But Google’s approach is to say “You’re doing something wrong, stop it immediately.” and then not tell you what the problem is. Married guys have probably experienced the same frustration but this is effecting my bottom line!


Question 2: How do I expect people to find my site?

As we continue to examine the top 10 questions each business owner needs to consider when taking their site to the next level, we look at question 2: How do I expect people to find my site?

The Kevin Costner approach in Field of Dreams does not work. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve spoken with people who honestly believe “If I build it, they will come.” But it just isnt’ so. If you want to get people to come to visit your site, you have to have a plan to market that site.

Here’s a quick list of ways you can plan for traffic to your site:

  1. Make sure every piece of paper and email you generate lists your web address
  2. Run a Pay Per Click campaign in one or more of the search engines
  3. Provide an incentive for current or past clients to come and visit – include that in your newsletter
  4. Get others to link to your site (this can be as easy as picking up the phone and making a call or as easy as offering the right partner a small amount to link to you)
  5. Ensure that your site is optimized for search engines like Google, Yahoo and Live
  6. Get involved in social bookmarking and bookmark relevant pages in your site
  7. Highlight your site in any print advertising you do
  8. Create a blog on your site and post to it regularly so that people have a reason to come back

These ideas are just intended to help you get the creative juices flowing. The important thing is that you have a plan for your site and then you go about implementing that plan.


Web Site Design

For more than a year we have been offering the 10 essential questions to answer when you are ready to take your site to the next level. The response to this has been so good that we are going to take a deeper look at each question.

The first question is “What are the goals for my web site?” While the question seems simple enough, a lot of people struggle with this one. Too frequently the complete answer we get is “Because everyone else has a site.” Putting aside the parental instinct to reply “if everyone was jumping off a cliff, would you?” we sit down and talk about what reasonable goals people can set for their web site.

If you are selling goods or services via your web site, you will want to set a goal some kind of sales goals. If the site already exists, perhaps your goal will be to increase sales 50% over the course of the next year with a redesigned web site. If the site is brand new, you can set a dollar goal for numbers of sales.

Even if you aren’t selling anything on your site, you should still set goals. We track where every new customer comes from. So we know when we get a new customer through our web site as opposed to getting it through word of mouth. If your goal is to get 5 new customers through your web site each quarter, this will help you plan out your site. I had one client who had an existing site and he stated that his goal was to educate customers. I said he must be doing a very good job because the page we were looking at had 100s of visitors but almost no conversion to customers.

He looked at me for a moment and then said, “Well ultimately I’d like them to call.” I gently asked him where his phone number was on the page and suddenly a great big light bulb went off inside his head. Now that he had a goal – get people to call – he could evaluate his site and make changes as needed.

Tune in next time for “How do I expect people to find my site?”


3 Technologies for Small Businesses

Technologies that every Small Business Should Know About:

1.       Blogs. Having a blog or using other blogs correctly can help you increase targeted traffic to your web site. Writing your own blog can help create the kind of community that every web site owner covets.

2.       Pay Per Click. Just about every business can benefit from a Pay Per Click campaign to get prospective buyers to your web site.  For some businesses this would be a year-round campaign and for others it might just be a seasonal campaign based on enhancing your boom season or mitigating slow times by offering special offers.

3.       XHTML. Most people that html is the language of the web. So is XHTML some racy version of HTML? Not hardly. It is actually a stricter web language that follows XML guidelines. OK, that probably didn’t clear up much so let me try again. HTML is a very forgiving language. You can screw it up pretty bad and a web browser will still show “what you intended”. XHTML is much stricter and requires the programmer to not leave out important pieces like something called closing tags. As all kinds of devices are now becoming web-enabled, having a stricter language like XHTML will ensure that all devices from handhelds to laptops to desktops (and even refrigerators) will be able to correctly read and display the web pages.


Online Marketing

We’ve been getting a lot of calls lately about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and CPC (Cost Per Click) campaigns. Just today I had a gentleman ask about our rates for a CPC campaign. After I told him he said “I see that you also provide training, how much would it cost to train me to do the click campaign?” I told him and he changed the subject. A lot of businesses are spending big bucks are their web sites and then not going the extra mile to make the site successful. It doesn’t have to break the bank. THE single most important thing you can do on your web site is make sure that you actually use the terms you want to be ranked for.

I can’t tell you how often I have evaluated someone’s web site, we’ve discussed their key words and phrases and then I’ve asked, “Where did you incorporate these terms on your site?” and been met with a blank stare. I’m not talking about just posting a list of the key words. I’m talking about weaving the phrases into the content of your web site. I’m talking about wordsmithing your content so that it both reflects what goods and or services you offer AND uses your key phrases in such a way that visitors to your site can see that you do indeed offer what they were searching for.


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