Monday, October 13, 2008

Usability: Does Your Web Page Cause the viewer to Think?

Usability: Does Your Web Page Cause the viewer to Think?
Download Free Copy Of 14 Point Web Copy Analysis By Yanik Silver
This is the ultimate test. If the viewer does not "get it" the instant he or she looks at your web page and has to think about it, the game is over and the viewer is gone probably forever. Go next door to your neighbor and haul your laptop with you. Assuming your neighbor is a buddy, he will probably humor you (thinking you may be having a breakdown of some sort) and let you plug-in and boot up your computer. Tell him the truth. You need to know how a stranger perceives your new web page. Tell him to describe what the page is about in less than 5 seconds, and then let him view it. If he stutters, pack up your laptop and head home to do some revising.

In the event someone else has designed your web page for you, the same test applies. Just because your web design company, or design person, is an expert does not mean they are perfect. Sometimes web designers get so caught up in the genius of their work they forget the rest of the world might not see things the same as their brilliant minds do. It's easy to know what a web page is about if you are the one designing it.

Page layout is critical. If the page contains categories of products and/or services, the category list should be displayed in a column on the left side of the page separated by some white space. Category lists work best using black text on white background. Special deals and main products and/or services should be displayed in the center of the page where the viewers' eyes immediately focus. Navigation buttons should be clearly visible and state the exact type of information they link to. The goal of an effective website should be for every page to be self-evident, so that when viewed by a complete stranger, they will know what it is and how to use it.

Most viewers spend far less time looking at our web pages than we website owners would like to believe. For a web page to do its job effectively, often times it must convey the sales message at a glance. Most of the time, a glance is the only chance of stopping the viewer and invoking his interest to read our offer. This is the only opportunity we get to make a sale. This is why it is imperative for our web pages be self-evident and self-explanatory.

Stop and think for a minute "How do I use the web." This will answer your question as to how most other folks use the web. On these multi page sales pitches, do you read every word, or do you just skim the words looking for something of interest to you. Well, if that's the way you do it, it should come as no surprise that most other viewers do the same. Most people are in a hurry and don't have the time or the need to read everything. With this in mind, I believe it would safe to say that effective web page content should be short and to the point. If viewers are going to just skim web pages, it makes sense to design web pages that can get our message across during the scanning process.

Most web sites I have studied are designed with the assumption that viewers will pore over every page, reading every word, figuring out how things are organized, and trying to decide which link to click that will take them to their desired destination. When in fact, what really happens is they glance at a couple of pages and click on the first link that even vaguely catches their interest.

In conclusion, I believe a web page should be designed to deliver its intended message in a powerful, swift, and decisive manner without a lot of fluff and happy talk (words that have no useful meaning).

Resource used for this article: Don't Make Me Think!: Author; Steve Krug: New Riders Publishing: Berkeley, California USA

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