Photo by Jason-Morrison
Usability is an essential thing to keep in mind when designing a website. If you want your site to have a high rate of conversions (or any visitors at all), it should be easy to use. This means no mind-numbing Flash intros, complicated menus, or confusing bells and whistles that can distract from the user’s experience.
Remember, if visitors to your site find something even the slightest bit difficult, annoying, confusing, etc., they’ll leave. It’s a big internet, and there’s only so many hours in a day!
Jakob Nielsen, the premier web usability consultant, has a site called Use-It, which is a great place to start if you’re learning the basics of how to design with the user in mind. Also, Steve Krug’s book “Don’t Make Me Think” is a good place to start on this topic. However, the web is always changing, and there’s many other opinions out there on this issue. Don’t be afraid to explore them all!
We’ve also listed a bunch of tools below that can help assist you in looking at your site’s usability. Know of any others? Let us know in the comments.
Clicktale records the movements of people’s mouses as they browse your site, and aggregates them into heat maps that show you how to optimize the hottest parts of your site. Also discover which parts of your site are causing people to leave before a conversion is achieved.
Google’s Website Optimizer allows you to create A/B and multivariate experiments that give you the tools to optimize your site to its greatest potential.
CrazyEgg uses heat map technology for optimization so you can increase conversion rates, but also uses a feature called “Confetti” to show you the clicks on your page segmented by the sites that referred those visitors who clicked.
UserTesting is probably the most personal of all the tools in this group. Pre-select testers based on a series of demographics and users who fit those parameters will be notified to test your site. These testers will record their experience on your site with a video of their screen and a verbal narrative of their experience. You can also include follow up questions after the test to pinpoint certain features of your site you would like to focus on.
Loop 11 gives you a tool set that includes usability testing in addition to A/B and multivariate tests. Loop 11 also tracks the metrics of your visitors for better focus and troubleshooting.
Feng Gui uses software that simulates the human eye, enabling you to see how people will view your site or advertisement even before you launch it. This tool not only shows you where people will look, but also what best holds their attention.