Usability is arguably one of the most important elements of any e-commerce Web site. Unfortunately, few new business owners, and a number of well-established business owners, pay scant attention to this vital factor of their online business.
Dickless Marketing touched upon the usability issue in Chapter 4 where we discussed the elements needed to build a 'good' Web site, apart from any focus on sales or gender differences. Since publication of our guide on smart marketing to women online, usability has become a favorite topic in marketing news articles and reports. Unfortunately, Web site owners seem to be devouring the SEO (search engine optimization) and PPC (pay per click) news, at the expense of usability. Bad usability, the inability of visitors to find what they are looking for -- what YOU promised them -- makes SEO and Google ad words or PPC useless. Throwing money to the wind.
Jakob Nielsen, the reigning usability knowledge professional, has a current article on his Web site that addresses usability from a unique perspective, suggesting that users "sniff out" content.
Deceivingly Strong Information Scent Costs Sales
Summary: Users will often overlook the actual location of information or products if another website area seems like the perfect place to look. Cross-references and clear labels alleviate this problem.
Understand that Jane's nose works extremely well. She can sniff out a sale or product/service from her computer chair at home surfing all hours of the day or night, or from her desk chair at work, where she is putting in enough work time to validate an occasional click through her favorite sites online. If she arrives at your site by chance, and you're announcing the sale she's eager for, she'll buy...if you've prepared your site for the sale. Asking Jane to click hither and yon to find her sale, will surely have her clicking OUT of your site. This is a prime reason the women I talk to give up on small Web sites...because their navigation and usability is counter-intuitive.
Don't ask Jane to "click here" for the product description, then "click there" to see your options. Adding an, "Oh, by the way, other folks think these products go along with the product you're interested in" on another page, another click away from where Jane wants to be, is deadly. All those clicks usually send Jane back to page one, where her sale product is displayed -- but no shopping cart appears! Five minutes of sniffing out the sale, and not finding it, is guaranteed to send Jane away-- forever.
In an article from ClickZ this past spring, women revealed that the Internet was a vital part of their lives today.
Compared to other forms of media usage, Internet time outweighed watching TV (2.9 hours); listening to radio (1.5 hours); reading books (1 hour); reading magazines (.7 hours); and reading newspapers (.6 hours).
This proves that Jane wants to buy from you. Whether she's buying for herself, her family, her friends, or her business (and she buys for all those reasons and people...unlike Dick, who most often is buying for himself, sometimes for his significant other), Jane follows Jakob Nielsen's model of online shopping -- she uses her nose to sniff out bargains.
Help her in her quest by reading Nielsen and following his advice. He concludes his article with these words:
"Check your website for pairs of links or navigation categories in which one label has strong information scent for something that's actually located elsewhere. If you find them, you're losing customers."
Strong information scent...sniffing out the sale...click, click, submit. It's that easy.
(image courtesy of Web Monkey)
What's not to like about that?