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Old 15th February 2005, 05:17 PM   #1
thejenn
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Default New Article - Why Search Engine Marketing Has A Passion for Web Site Usability

Full Text: http://www.searchengineguide.com/kra.../0215_kk1.html

Some snippets:

"Believe it or not, search engines and user centered web design have a common goal. They want to provide the best experience for their web site visitor. Even better, they want that experience to be productive, satisfying and memorable."

"What it boils down to is making a web site useful. Online marketers, who understand that the key to their client’s success is a customer centered web site, won’t even start the game until everyone on the team is playing towards that goal."

--

How much attention do you pay to usability when you are optimizing your web site? Are you willing to sacrifice asthetics for a better ranking, or do you believe that you can have your cake and eat it to and demand nothing less than the best from your web designer and search marketing team.

Is usability going to be the next big thing to hit the web? How can small businesses with limited budgets manage to get the design, optimization and usability testing that they need to put up a great site that will convert well?

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Old 15th February 2005, 09:25 PM   #2
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Search engines are just another visitor to a web site, and making sure that they can use it well, too, is a process that benefits everyone. (Nice article, Kim!)

The same is true in designing a site for accessibility. (See Mark Pilgrim's Dive Into Accessibility: 30 days to a more accessible web site, and the section which breaks down how accessbility can help different users of a site, including how they can benefit Google (and searchers who use Google).

There is the possibility that you can design a site that focuses too narrowly on filling the page with keywords, in an effort to get visitors to a site. The harm is that once they get there, there's no substance beyond that. But it's a concern that can be met by making sure that your site engages a visitor, persuades them, and makes it easy for them to use the site. This interview with Andrew Chak has some good ideas on a persuasive, usable design, and the type of content that can make a difference on a site: Guiding Users with Persuasive Design: An Interview with Andrew Chak

One example from that article:

Quote:
Professional services, such as doctors and lawyers, tend to be the sites that miss the persuasive design boat the most. They often just provide basic office information without emphasizing why someone should choose them as a service provider. These sites could provide more content about their qualifications, experience, and customer testimonials.

In contrast, a clever contractor site could include an article about what to look for in a contractor, which is an implicit statement about how confident they feel about their own qualifications.

Not only is that a persuasive approach, but it also gives a visitor additional information upon which to make a decision. And, it gives a search engine more to index, and more to send people to, on a topic that they might just be searching for.

Usability isn't just ease of use. It's the whole user experience. A persuasive design anticipates users needs, and provides responses to those needs, and helps search engines deliver relevant answers to people's questions.

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Old 16th February 2005, 10:50 AM   #3
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Is usability going to be the next big thing to hit the web?
As much as I'd love it to be, so my own involvement in it would help pay for, say, a trip to some exotic island, I think what's happening is that in general, people who build web sites are paying better attention to the whole process.

There are still beginners and small biz startups learning the ropes, and it's often enough to shove the site out the door and then go back and make it better.

Then there's the web design companies or web designers and developers who picked up related skills, such as SEO and now, user centered design. They also dabble in FLASH and CSS, and worry about web standards. These folks are expected to meet some serious goals from the start, because they're being paid to deliver a product that meets certain demands. (And they have to prove ROI.)

Lack of traffic and lack of sales helped drive what we often call usability, but it's really persuasive design or user experience design, which is learning to plug in design elements that help a visitor complete a task. It includes making a good impression so people bookmark the site, link to it, or recommend it to someone. It's not a new idea, but it's all the rage because of the demand to meet customer expectations and be competitive.

Quote:
How can small businesses with limited budgets manage to get the design, optimization and usability testing that they need to put up a great site that will convert well?
Easy!

Put a feedback form on the web site. Add a field for comments. Ask no more than 3 questions. One of my favorites is "Did you find what you were looking for?" Retail stores do this in the checkout line. A statement before this form inviting feedback is a sign that someone is driving the web site and wants to steer it well.

Avoid asking for a name or email. Some people just hate to identify themselves when offering suggestions and complaints. (This also invites nasty messages, which I've rec'd from people who have nothing better to do than throw pie in your face. But, even within an ugly comment, there can be a gem of advice that may be useful.)

User testing is as simple as asking someone to do something on your web site and watching them try to do it. Remain quiet. Don't offer them any clues. Take notes. They may not be your target market, but if they get lost, chances are good other people are just as confused.

There ARE web site reviews that are affordable (under $100) for small businesses. And, there are SEO companies that offer web site usability reviews along with their services, which you may be paying for already.

There are also some cheap publications that offer a lot of clues and advice. I happen to know of some myself.

Because I'm a strong advocate for small biz, and couldn't have made it myself without free help and advice, I have a small section of usability resources on my UsabilityEffect.com site that include everything from case studies to how to make better forms. It was my hope to point people to the information that can help them and many people are really good at doing things themselves, if they know how or where to start.

It also doesn't take any money to use your own imagination. Every web site owner should visualize what it must be like to try and find such and such on their web site if the visitor has a dialup coinnection, or is seeing impaired, or suffers from ADD or ADHD and is easily distracted by animated spinning things. Some people with athritis have trouble using a laptop mouse, so JavaScript dropdown menu navigation is next to impossible to do.

For years it was fun to build a web site and say "Look what I did!" But today, it's more accurate to be saying "Look what I built for you!" You've not only made it a user centered site, but its easy to find when people search for your topic.

This is what's hot today.

PS - Bill, thanks for the compliment on the article. It's an honor when SearchEngineGuide includes them on their site.



Kim

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Old 16th February 2005, 06:05 PM   #4
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You're welcome, Kim.

Nice followup post, too!

It really does pay off to keep in mind who you are creating a page for, and how it can work well for them.

Sometimes that begins as easily as thinking about how you describe the features that your products or services offer, and rewriting them in terms of how they benefit the people they are offered to on your site.

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