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  • How should I measure my web site traffic?
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  • Why WordPress?
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  • Should social media form part of our web strategy?
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Web Usability: key to user experience

Once a user has found your web site, its usability will determine its success. Marketing consultancy Hubspot’s 2011 survey (see pie chart) suggests that user-oriented design, and well organised content, scores over funky graphics and innovative design. More than three quarters of web users were most interested in ease of finding what they want or need.

Yet how often are we frustrated by a hard-to-navigate web site with outdated, inaccurate or incomplete information? It’s intensely frustrating for the user, and gives a bad overall impression of the organisation, suggesting little thought or effort devoted to the needs of users.

“Don’t Make Me Think”!

One of the best books on usability is Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think. Its central advice is that the web site’s design should be arranged so that information can be found successfully with as few decisions by the user as possible. Navigation should be intuitive, choices clear, conventions should on the whole be followed.

There is a link to SEO values: Google advises us to design web pages with users uppermost in the mind. Its guidelines state that “Webmasters who spend their energies upholding the spirit of the basic principles will provide a much better user experience and subsequently enjoy better ranking than those who spend their time looking for loopholes…”.

However, all of this should be placed in the context of the site. Different sites and different organisations will have very different goals. Most importantly, their users will have specific needs. It’s important for an organisation to get over its message, but it’s likely to fall on stony ground if transmitted in an unfriendly, unempathetic way.

Also critical is the ease of use for those administering the web site. In particular, how easily does material published and edited in the back end translate into content that passes the usability test?

Case Study: The Challenges

All of these were considerations in Dovedale Design’s redevelopment of the web site of Chiltern Chamber of Trade and Commerce. Its previous site had confusing and in some cases hard-to-read navigation. The priorities of the Chamber were far from evident. News items, events and other information were jumbled up. Formatting was hopelessly inconsistent. And users had clearly lost confidence in the Joomla-based platform.

We discussed the Chamber’s activities and goals with its officers and some members. With the strengths of the Chamber clearly lying in its member network, the following priorities emerged for the web site:

  • Building and servicing the members’ network.
  • Publicising members’ events, the Chamber’s prime networking platform, with an easy form-based sign up.
  • Dissemination of news and resources, preferably with a narrative displaying Chamber successes, opportunities and influence.
  • Clarity of information about members, their services, offers etc.
  • Clear navigation and responsive design.
  • Ease of use for those administering the site’s back end.

Case Study: The Solutions

We designed a WordPress-based template, with a number of features to achieve these ends:

  • Home page built around priorities, with much content pulled from events, news and member areas, and acting as a portal to these areas. Inclusion of Twitter feed, news items, upcoming events and random images make the page appear fresh at all times.
  • Consistent formatting of events, both on Events page and on Home page, achieved via easy-to-use WordPress custom fields.
  • Date feature moves events automatically from Future Events to Past Events when they occur. No clogging up of Home page with long-past events!
  • Easy form-based sign-up for events, complemented by e-mail campaign (e-mails can be integrated with the site for a more automated approach).
  • Cloud-based member list, easy to update without need to access web site.
  • Consistent formatting of member pages, for ease of finding information, and scalable as member base grows.
  • Searchable member database, using WordPress categories.

“Robert has done an amazing job on the Chiltern Chamber Website. We were struggling for some time to find a designer who would not only help us redesign our website BUT be part of our team to understand the way in which we work. Robert took great care to understand the strengths of the organisation and its members’ needs, and brought them out in the web site. The website now looks fantastic, works well, can be changed effortlessly and safely. This keeps our website very fresh…

Robert has redesigned the website so that it engages with the audience and people can easily find a way around it… as opposed to a website that takes you on a wild goose chase! The Chamber’s message gets through.” Vee Bharakda, Chair, Chiltern Chamber

Find out what we can do for your business today

Whilst the template and features were built for a Chamber of Commerce, it could be adapted to many organisations. Particularly ones with news flow; events, fixtures and other date-specific material; lists; entries requiring consistent replication – for example member or personal details, company entries, project write-ups etc. Above all, the need to ensure that information important to the user is available clearly, intuitively, and with relatively few clicks.

Such organisations could include:

  • Trade organisations
  • Member organisations
  • Sports and other clubs
  • Charities
  • Public sector organisations, such as local councils

Dovedale Design seeks to empower business owners to build their business, safe in the knowledge that their web presence is in good hands. Our business background is a key strength: usability involves matching a proper understanding of the business and its goals, with the likely requirements of users. Why not find out what we can do for your business today?