By user-friendly I mean "Do you do everything possible to make it easy for your user to make a decision that will help them solve their problems?" If your website doesn't move them in this direction, then there's no purpose in getting them there in the first place.
Their decision might be "I need to find out more before I decide to buy so I'll email her" and, although you'd like them to buy right now, at least they are moving forward in the buying process, rather than feeling blah and leaving the site because you haven't grabbed their attention strongly enough. Or their decision might be "This person seems to know what she's talking about. I think I'll sign up for her newsletter."
Here are the first couple of points to be aware of when you're evaluating your site.
Does your site load quickly?
The first thing that people notice is whether the site opens up quickly. If it's too overloaded with images and graphics that take more than 4 seconds to open, your visitors will probably leave. Resist the temptation to have too many images. Restrict them to those where it is immediately clear that they are directly related to the content of your site. If your visitors have to perform mental gymnastics to figure out what a particular image has to do with your service, you've already lost their attention.
User-friendliness then moves on to the content.
Does your content let visitors know that you understand their dilemmas and have a solution to their problems?
The days are gone when people went to the web just to browse around because it was new, exciting and fun. Now people browsing the web are more goal- and task-oriented. They go to websites for something specific. That's why they type specific words into Google or Yahoo to find what they're looking for, words that represent their problem or the solution they're searching for.
If your readers feel that you understand them and what they are up against, you've already begun to establish trust and credibility and you've increased the chance that they'll stay and take action.
Does your site make your customer the center of its focus?
If your site is about you and not about them, shame on you! Why would a visitor come to your site and be enthralled to read YOUR opinion of how great you and your services are? Sure, you have to let them know what you do, but there's an art to letting them know while making THEM the center of your focus. Content that is written from the reader's point of view will grab their attention every time. Let's face it, we all like to feel that people are paying attention to us and our wants and needs. Why should it be any different in the online world? It's not!
It's critical to make your site and its content appealing and relevant to the wants and problems of your perfect clients, if you hope that they'll give a second thought to doing business with you.
So there you have it! Part II of "Is your website user- friendly?" follows next month. Watch out for it!
Copyright 2009 Maggie Dennison