So you've built your website, given it a fancy logo, maybe even written some content that will have Google hanging on your every keyword. Perhaps there is a Google analytics code uploaded in the HTML code so you can have a look at the performance of the website? You are on your way to getting 'Website Of The Year' right? Hold your horses... as my dad used to say.
Having a fancy website with bells on could be the worst thing you could do if the website's usability is compromised. This is even more important for an ecommerce website that's main goal should be making the process as easy as possible for a customer, and if they aren't finding the navigation easy then they may just bounce off the site to a competitor.
'Website usability is defined, making web sites easy to use for an end-user.' Let's look at some things we must remember when it comes to a user's experience:
1) Where have you gone wrong?
If you have built the web pages without a thought of what you are aiming to achieve from the website then this can be where you have gone wrong. Think about what you are trying to do; maybe it is to offer your services to customers, or give information to people? It is also a good idea to put yourself in the users' shoes! What are they looking for and where would they navigate to? You might be surprised what you find out.
2) Draft up a simple navigation system
Ask yourself these three questions: Where am I? Where have I been? Where can I go? Then you will be ready to design your navigation system as if you are a user visiting the website for the first time. Go through the whole website from top level, and right through to the pages deep in the navigation. Think about how you will make these pages available to a user and a search engine.
3) Brand Consistency
A strong brand image throughout the website can show visitors that your website is a professional and high quality website. However, this can work both ways, and with inconsistent colours, typefaces, and page layout then a user can become disillusioned by the website and leave very quickly.
4) Text links
As an SEO consultant I know how important internal links are throughout a website, and using keywords as anchor text for your internal links is a good way to promote a page in major search engines. In terms of navigation and usability this is just as important. It helps a user to find his way through the website.
Large websites should always have a sitemap. The sitemap should contain a text link to every page on the website so that it can be accessed easily by search engines and people. If you have analytics running on your website then you can see how many people have visited the sitemap page to find their way around your website. This isn't a good sign, as people are finding it difficult to find the information naturally. Therefore revisit step 1.
6) Homepage Logo, Search Box and Contact Details
Site logos are great to link to your homepage from other pages as well. Users now often hover over them and use them to navigate around the website, this is especially true with the homepage logo on a website and the contact details.
Have a page on the homepage that links to a feedback form or something similar. This should allow users to input information that can help your future development of the website. It could contain questions like 'Did you find it hard to find what you were looking for?' or 'What do you think we could improve on?'
8) Simple Testing!
If a user clicks on your website and then sees nothing that relates to what they entered the website for then you've done something wrong. Building your website in a way that enables users to access the information they want quickly and simply can actually be harder than you initially think, so try and keep it simple. If you test a website that is in development by asking someone who has not seen the website before to complete simple tasks locating information or making purchases and they have trouble navigating through the pages, then you have gone wrong somewhere.
Remember, designs for your users, and not for yourself; remain consistent and keep things simple!