Web Site Visibility Through Web Site Usability
A really usable, functioning website will promote itself and automatically pick up traffic from search engines and the like. When time allows, we will use this page to explain the technical reasons why there is a direct correlation between site usability and a high search engine ranking.
In the meantime, consider the observation that if people can’t use your site, they won’t — nor will they recommend the site to anyone else.
If you haven't conducted usability studies yet, we recommend that you obtain the services of a small child of the as-any-schoolboy-knows variety, i.e. an intelligent and web-savvy nine to fourteen year old. Sit them down in front of your bright and shiny website then ask them to find out information about a selection of your products or services and invite them to try to get more information. Then repeat the process with a handful of your competitors' sites. The results are usually highly instructive. If you want to spend real money on the project, give us a call and we'll hire some students to do the same thing (undergraduates) then write up the results. Most of our customers are horrified by what it tells them.
Desiging a site well, so that it fulfils its primary objective (you have already defined what this is, haven't you) is very hard. It is a specialised job. Most visual design houses — the kind who do the ravishingly good looking sites — hate web technologies because they are so limiting. Their goal is the acclaim of their peers, not your traffic levels or sales. Beware of anything they tell you about how your web site will improve your business unless they have extensively-thumbed copies of web usability books to show you. Then try the schoolboy (or a schoolgirl naturally) test on their sample sites. Repeat until you find a good one. Alternatively, our opinions are available for a modest fee.
Eventually we plan to split this page into its own section. For the moment, one of the most illuminating and eclectic sources of information on the subject is Nick Usborne's links page. Happy reading!