Often the first public-facing activity of a business is to launch a website announcing: Here we are! Buy our products or services! Learn about our company!

We all know having a website is very important for a business, but we may not understand what an effective website looks like. Sure, we may like the website ourselves but the important question is: Do your customers like the website? Does the website assist them in easily making a purchase?

An important step for maximizing the effectiveness of a website is looking at the usability of the site from the customer’s perspective. Does it present information clearly to your audiences? Can they find their way around and locate the information they need? Do they find it attractive and interesting? Does it make them want to buy a product or service?

A website’s usability involves a number of factors:

  • Navigability—being able to navigate the site easily;
  • Content—offering interesting content; and
  • Visuals—inviting visitors with colors, images, videos and more through good design

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services created Usability.gov, which explains the intricacies of website usability along with detailed guidance. Their Usability Guidelines Book includes chapters on design process, accessibility, page layout, navigation, text appearance, graphics, organization and more.

Visiting Usability.gov provides insight into the deep complexity of building a successful, usable website. For example, a business can’t rely on color alone to convey messages but must also use shapes, spaces and layout. Mashable has an interesting blog about how color blind visitors view websites differently, requiring graphic redundancies to ensure they are receiving messages when viewing a site.

As an example, unfortunately the government did not take their own advice when building HealthCare.gov. AdAge has an interesting article about how the site failed on usability and was not properly tested before launch, which caused many problems with signing up for health care coverage, delays and a lot of frustration from consumers.

Once a business has built their website, it’s a good idea to periodically conduct usability testing. This involves asking users to use the website and collect data about how they use it, challenge points and opportunities for improvement. If usability testing had been conducted before Healthcare.gov had been launched, a lot of the obvious problems could have been spotted and fixed sooner.

Another facet of usability testing is experience optimization or taking a further step to engage website visitors so that they become online customers. This process involves testing between scenarios to determine under what website conditions visitors are more likely to complete a purchase.

Enhancing the customer’s website experience can sometimes be as basic as altering a color palette, but can potentially make for a huge difference in a company’s ability to sell their products or services online. It’s also possible to drill down into segmentation through improving your appeal to specific types of customers.

The more you dive into website usability, the more potential there is for a business to find and satisfy their customers, plus cultivate a relationship for repeat visits. Here at Fusion, we can provide not only this type of usability testing, but also expert analysis and consulting to make the most of any company’s online presence.