And You May Ask Yourself, "How Did I Get Here?"
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Here's my issue with that: Your customers couldn't give one clickthrough about what quarter it is. They want to be able to use your Web site, period, end of sentence, all the time, everytime. They want to be able to come visit it, do their business, and finish their transaction, hopefully with not a lot of resistance on your part.
As part of an extended family that works on the worldwide IBM Web site, a big part of our ongoing challenge inside IBM is convincing our own quarter-to-quarter quarterbacks to invest in basic bloc
My response to that is simple: We're just like any other business, and we have to do the same amount of convincing to invest in fuzzy things like usability, just like everybody else. It's a never-ending battle, but it's a good fight and one well worth fighting. And the way I see it, your loyalty depends on our fight.
What more business leads need to understand with respect to usability on the Web is this: Time is the most precious thing most any of us have these days, and none of us have nearly enough of it. If you take too much of it from your customers, they'll be happy to take their money somewhere else, plain and simple. And that's exactly what happens when your Web site isn't user-friendly. Your customers can't do what it is that they need to do, and so they go elsewhere.
As we said during the boom, your competition is only a click away.
Which brings me to Jakob Nielsen's "Top 10 Web Design Mistakes of 2005." Nielsen has long been one of the Web's pre-eminent usability gurus -- he's called the "king of usability" in Web circles. In the past, Nielsen has observed that good usability improvements can bring ROI anywhere from 0% to 6,567% (one site he cites improved 65X -- probably not exactly something you want to brag about in your latest 10-K filing, but most certainly a great relief to that company's Web site users).
In 2003, Nielsen observed in one of his Alertbox reports that "ease of use doesn't come from wishful thinking." Rather, he suggests that it comes from "conducting systematic usability engineering activities throughout the project lifecycle. This is real work and costs real money, though not as much as some people fear." Amen to that.
After conducting an analysis of data from 863 design projects that included usability activities, Nielsen's study indicated the usability costs for a project generally amount to between 8% and 13% of its budget. Averaged out, that's about 10 percent. When it comes to Web projects, let me just state for the record that it's my belief that that is the best 10% you'll ever put into your Web site.
Why? Because the Web is a utility vehicle. People don't stand around admiring Web sites...they use the things! Increasingly, they use them to contact your business, to get informed and educated about your products and services, to conduct transactions with you, to buy stuff from you, and yes, even to complain to you. If you don't understand what it is that they need to do, and if you're not investing in how to make what it is that they need to do easier, then you're probably not getting near the ROI on your site as you ought to be.
The good news is, the most important baby steps on the usability front are generally free. Start by asking yourself some basic questions:
If you can start to answer, and resolve, some of these basic questions before your next Web overhaul, you'll be well on your way to making the most of that 10 percent.
But more importantly, your customers won't be spending so much time asking that most frustrating of questions, "How did I get here?"