Viewpoint on Usability

Written 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 torepparttar 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 withoutrepparttar 134779 right qualifications) and say they now create "user-centric" websites. As a consumer of e-commerce services, you need to be able to evaluaterepparttar 134780 competencies of your vendors. Do they haverepparttar 134781 skills,repparttar 134782 resources, andrepparttar 134783 methodologies in place to design and deliver a highly usable site? Are they poised to anticipate and meetrepparttar 134784 challenges ofrepparttar 134785 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 overrepparttar 134786 years. "User-friendly" emerged asrepparttar 134787 layperson's term for good system ergonomics and, as a result, it tends to be how most clients and end-users describe how they wantrepparttar 134788 site designed. They'll say things like, "we want a scalable, flexible design that is user-friendly." While this may be statingrepparttar 134789 obvious, these are good concepts for clients to be supporting. The important issue is not reallyrepparttar 134790 terms used to describe usability, it's understanding how it can positively affectrepparttar 134791 outcome of your e-commerce initiatives…and, conversely, that, used ineffectively,repparttar 134792 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 testingrepparttar 134793 interfaces and processes associated with computer applications. Seasoned performance engineers bring an interesting mixture of academic and practical skills torepparttar 134794 project team. And they are, most definitely, an integrated part ofrepparttar 134795 project team. Performance Engineers partner closely withrepparttar 134796 strategists, marketing specialists, business analysts, content architects, and visual designers to infuse their thinking (following a defined methodology) intorepparttar 134797 overall strategy and design ofrepparttar 134798 site.

Because it's a science, it's measurable.

Usability practices are sound and measurable. First and foremost, usability should supportrepparttar 134799 ROI ofrepparttar 134800 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" reducerepparttar 134801 value of usability to its lowest level. Usability and design metrics forrepparttar 134802 site should be established early inrepparttar 134803 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:

A Visit Isn't REALLY a Visit if Your Company Leaves on the Porch

Written by Harmony Major

What good is your website traffic if your visitors are leaving at repparttar home page? You don't want visitors ON your site, you want 'em IN your site. Use these five painless ideas for getting visitors INTO your site.

1. Establish your site's main goal.

Your website can have several different goals, so long as you don't try to achieve each of them at once. For instance, say you want your site to attract more subscribers to your ezine, secure new customers for your products, and attract repeat visitors.

Pick ONE of those goals to focus onrepparttar 134778 hardest, and makerepparttar 134779 other two secondary goals. If you're relatively new at designing effective websites, start out by focusing on one goal ONLY, and forgetrepparttar 134780 others untilrepparttar 134781 next go round.

2. Use home page lead-ins to content-laden pages.

If your primary goal is, let's say, to secure customers for a new your product, you can lead visitors into that product in several ways. Here's an example:

Write an article onrepparttar 134782 general subject matter of your product, including an eye-catching title -- read: HEADLINE -- forrepparttar 134783 article. Then, create a page for it on your website. On your home page, postrepparttar 134784 first few sentences of that article with a link to readrepparttar 134785 rest of it on its own page.

Better yet, you could leave your article excerpt hanging in mid sentence to entice your readers to click deeper into your site to readrepparttar 134786 article. (Just be surerepparttar 134787 article page loads fast.) Here's an example of an effective article excerpt lead-in:

--- In only one day, I had over 400 new visitors clamoring their way into my website. I didn't use search engines, ezine advertising, or spam, and it didn't cost me anything -- not one thin dime. So how did I do it? What wasrepparttar 134788 FREE...

Click here now to readrepparttar 134789 rest of this article! < > ---

If you've targeted your lead-in to attract your average visitor, who WOULDN'T want to go read that article?

3. Change your home page content and/or layout often.

Nearly every time I redesign or add new content to my site, I see an increase in activity. (Whether that increase is in sales, page views, etc. depends on exactly what I've done torepparttar 134790 site.) You don't want to changerepparttar 134791 look of your site TOO much, or you'll have your visitors heads reeling. Maybe once every few months is sufficient, but test to see what works best for your particular audience.

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