It occurred to me while staring at the ceiling of my dentist's office: My hygienist has a job like mine. She feels duty-bound to remind me of the benefits of regular flossing because it promotes healthy teeth and prevents problems down the road. So, I floss for a few days and then forget about it unless my mouth is in pain. When that happens, I beg for immediate help to fix the problem. This is not unlike when site owners come rushing to usability consultants in a panic; their website has a conversions emergency.
User behaviors change and evolve and it's up to website owners to adapt. Constant attention must be given to how users and search engines interact with your site to ensure that you not only attract visitors, but give them reasons to come back. Because as every Web professional knows, the more users interact with your site, the better the odds they convert.
A Tweak a Day Convinces Visitors to Stay We want our site visitors to complete the tasks we designate for them. We want them to feel comfortable, rather than anxious. We want to persuade them to do something beyond what they came for, or maybe tell a friend about what we offer. You can nurture your website every day by remembering that you are the host and everyone who arrives wants to know what you have and how it will benefit them.
Here are some ways you can take a fresh look at your website every day to ensure maximum usability:
Give someone who is not familiar with the site a task to complete. Observe how they navigate your site and go about completing that task. Note any areas of difficulty, no matter how small.
Go back and gather every possible note, bar napkin and whiteboard meeting scribble where the design was hashed out. Look for and document those ideas that were not included. These may turn into future enhancements.
Write a document that details the site's purpose (past and present), intended audience, how it will generate revenue and current information architecture.
Create guidelines for each page based on this document, so that no matter who touches a page, the site remains consistent.
Write test cases to make sure everything that was considered a requirement was met. Test repeatedly to be sure that any changes didn't upset a requirement.
Experiment with Google Website Optimizer and Analyzer free tools. You can find something to do every day. Simple A/B testing can help you determine if a button works better than a text link, for example.
Run link and spell checkers.
Work to update your code to make it accessibility compliant, per Section 508. Visit section508.gov to learn about technical standards and how to achieve compliance.
Change up your content. This is smart for search engine indexing, and keeps regular site visitors interested.
If you sell products, change the images. This is not the same as rotating them. If you showcase four items on the homepage, switch them out with something different. If you have eight items, take four shots of each item, from different angles and switch these on a weekly basis. Sometimes a different view works better.
Be sure to invite feedback with an e-mail survey or on-site form. Changing the questions periodically is a good way to get different types of feedback about different areas of your site.
Perform functional testing and check error messages. Enter bad data into your forms to see what happens. Users often have difficulties with forms, so you need to be sure they get what they need in the event of a hang-up, whether it be a new form, or an administrator's contact information.
Stay current on form design standards and update accordingly.
Keep updating your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) and expertise. This might include showcasing price comparison charts and publishing third-party feedback and testimonials.
While you might be confident in your site's design, there will always be problems and your work will never be done. But committing to daily maintenance will set your Web property ahead of others for the simple fact that you were considerate enough to care about user experience. What you will see in return is a rise in customer satisfaction and conversion rates.
About the Author: Usability consultant, Kimberly Krause Berg, is the owner of Cre8pc.com, UsabilityEffect.com and Cre8asiteForums.com. Her work combines website usability testing with a working knowledge of search engine optimization.
Digital marketing executive with proven experience in all aspects of search engine optimization (SEO), performance-based advertising, consumer-generated/social media, email marketing, lead generation, Web design, usability, and analytics. - 20-year Internet marketing veteran, currently serving as the Digital Marketing Campaign Manager at Antenna Group (formerly Chicago Digital). - Former Editor-In-Chief of Website Magazine, and a regular speaker on Web technology digital marketing strategy - Author of several books on digital marketing Including Web 360: The Fundamentals of Web Success; Affiliate 360: The Fundamentals of Performance Marketing; Domains 360: The Fundamentals of Buying & Selling Domain Names, and SEO 360: The Fundamentals of Search Engine Optimization.