Turn visitors into customers with good usability

Getting traffic (visitors) to your website is all well and good, but that doesn't make them customers, or even leads. Usability is what takes them to the next step.

Every website has hundreds, thousands or even millions of competitors. If your visitors can't find what they want straight away, they'll go to your competitors instead.

When you buy some new software, you get a manual. You probably don't read it, but you get a manual anyway. Visitors to your website don't get a manual for it. They need to be able to just look at your website and understand exactly what to do to get to where they want within a few seconds, otherwise they'll go to your competitors.

Visitors are not impressed by fancy graphics, music, sounds or clever tricks. In most cases, they are just annoyed by them. Your task is not to impress your visitors with your web developer's skills, and your task is certainly not to annoy your visitors. Your task is to make it absolutely obvious to your visitors how to get them to go to where you want them. Whether that's to the checkout page, the contact us page, or the "register an account" page. Identify your preferred target page and make it effortless to get there.

Several websites have lost my custom in the past because I couldn't find the checkout page. I could add products to the basket, but couldn't get to the checkout.

Absolutely disastrous!

I'm sure that given a bit of time, I'd have found the checkout page, but it was just easier for me to buy the products from another website with better usability.

Every e-commerce website needs a huge checkout button. Not just a "view basket" button. It's not obvious that you might be able to get to the checkout from the basket page.

If you want visitors to just contact you from your website, there is one place that people look. Your main menu. The link should say "Contact" or "Contact Us". And it should be the last item in your main menu. That is the first thing people look for and that is the first place they look. If they can't find it there, they might not think of a second place to look. They might not think to look for "Get in touch", or "Drop us a line", so make it obvious.

Putting things in clever or unusual places is counter-productive, annoying for your visitors and certainly doesn't impress anybody. There are some very standard design patterns for websites which visitors understand unconsciously. Deviating from these patterns is a bad idea, regardless of how impressive the web designer thinks they are.

Studies have shown that your website has between 5 and 10 seconds to "capture" your visitors. If it takes longer than 10 seconds for your visitors to find what they want, they'll go somewhere else. Internet users really are that impatient. You need to make sure that there is nothing in the way, no doorway pages, no entertaining intro pages and no animated page construction.

Fancy websites are rarely successful websites, so try not deviate too far from the established design standards.