Do You Really Need a Web Site?Written by Janice Byer
Having a website is one form of marketing for your business that just keeps on giving! But how do you know if you need a website?
Well, with amount of information that is available with just a few keystrokes or clicks of mouse, why wouldn't you want your business' information to be included?
More and more people and businesses use Internet to find information. Whether it is locally or internationally, Internet is one place where they are likely to find what they are looking for. Unless, of course, they are looking for you or your product and you don't have a site.
Having a website allows your business to advertise 24 hours a day, seven days a week and it is available whenever someone is in need of information on your product or services. The elements you include on your website are a determining factor for how successful a marketing device it will be for you.
For personal websites, you can include everything that your heart desires. You can have a site that shows off your favorite cat or a site that includes everything you ever wanted to know about Limburger cheese. The subject choices are unlimited.
However, a business site should be more refined. Get to point and provide a wealth of information about your product or service. But, ensure that you leave a little to imagination. Inspire them to WANT to contact you for a little for more information, and then make sale!
And, on that note, make sure your contact information is readily available on your site. There is nothing worse than peaking your site visitor's interest and then making them search for a means to contact you. Believe me, many people will simply give up if they can't find what they are looking for and go on to another site in hopes of an easier route.
Navigation is another key element. Getting around your site should be straightforward and painless for your visitors. Provide links from each page to all your key pages. Some sites can become quite large, so links from every page to every page would make site quite crowded and monotonous. But, make sure you don't leave your visitor at a dead end.
Viewpoint on UsabilityWritten by Mimi Brooks
It's a sad truth that very few Web integrators and interactive agencies have integrated performance engineers -- those folks who can analyze, assess, design and test Webb sites for usability -- into their overall work practices and methodologies. And even fewer have figured out how to apply performance engineering to ever-changing and increasingly complex nature of web applications. This is anything but an intuitive process. SIs can't merely dot their offices with a few people (with or without right qualifications) and say they now create "user-centric" websites. As a consumer of e-commerce services, you need to be able to evaluate competencies of your vendors. Do they have skills, resources, and methodologies in place to design and deliver a highly usable site? Are they poised to anticipate and meet challenges of ever-changing, complex nature of web applications?
What's in a name?
Human Factors. Human Performance Engineering. Usability. User-friendly design. User-centric websites. Is there a difference among these? From a practical standpoint, there really is not. The science of how humans interact with their environment and, in our case, with their computer systems, has taken on many names over years. "User-friendly" emerged as layperson's term for good system ergonomics and, as a result, it tends to be how most clients and end-users describe how they want site designed. They'll say things like, "we want a scalable, flexible design that is user-friendly." While this may be stating obvious, these are good concepts for clients to be supporting. The important issue is not really terms used to describe usability, it's understanding how it can positively affect outcome of your e-commerce initiatives…and, conversely, that, used ineffectively, serious impact it can have on your bottom line.
Usability. It's a science.
Usability is a science. Performance engineers are highly trained experts who combine graduate degrees (usually in Behaviorial Psychology or a related field) and several years of work experience in designing and testing interfaces and processes associated with computer applications. Seasoned performance engineers bring an interesting mixture of academic and practical skills to project team. And they are, most definitely, an integrated part of project team. Performance Engineers partner closely with strategists, marketing specialists, business analysts, content architects, and visual designers to infuse their thinking (following a defined methodology) into overall strategy and design of site.
Because it's a science, it's measurable.
Usability practices are sound and measurable. First and foremost, usability should support ROI of e-commerce initiative with tangible benefits. Vendors who make subjective statements like, "the site will be easier to use" or "your users will be happier" reduce value of usability to its lowest level. Usability and design metrics for site should be established early in planning process with clear ties to bottom-line performance. This isn't simple tracking of number of hits and form-based user feedback. Good usability design should enable: