Sell More Via the Web
Some online retailers seeking to improve their sites can afford substantial investments in sophisticated analysis tools and costly usability consulting. Others can’t. This article aims to help anyone who wants to tune a Web site “on the cheap.”
Step 1: Decide What Needs Improvement on Your Site
After listening to comments from customers and employees, you may already know some of the trouble spots on your Web site. You also may note weaknesses on your site after surfing and shopping from your competitors. And you may even use Neilsen’s law of Web usability, which states — quite obviously — your visitors spend most of their Web time not on your site. Therefore, you must pay special attention to instances in which your site uses navigation or layouts different from what most other online merchants are using.
As a rule of thumb, the four most important components of an e-commerce site are the product page, site search, cart and homepage. Running “discount usability sessions” is an inexpensive way to finding possible improvements to those important components of your site. Discount usability engineering (a phrase coined by Web guru Jakob Neilsen whom I mentioned earlier) is a great way to determine what on your site trips up users. Read more on this method at Neilsen’s site, www.useit.com. Here’s a quick overview.
Recruit five local Web users who aren’t familiar with your site. Pick folks who resemble your target demographic. Schedule five 45-minute sessions on the hour, one for each user. Offer each user a modest thank-you gift (e.g., gift certificate, cash) for participating.
Pick a friendly person in your organization who’s comfortable with the Web to serve as your moderator. Takeaway Tip: Don’t pick someone who works on your site.
Equip a quiet, private room with a computer and a video camera. Takeaway Tip: When running usability sessions, don’t use your T3 connection and Web designer’s gigantic display. To mimic reality, users should experience your site on a dialup or slow DSL using a regular-sized screen.