Our blog post on May 23rd told you about three ways to audit the infor­ma­tion archi­tec­ture (IA) of your site. But just as impor­tant as IA is your site’s usabil­ity, the prac­tice of making your website intu­itive and easier to use for the end-user. Usabil­ity focuses less on the struc­ture of infor­ma­tion on a site, and more on the ability of the user to complete page-level, and site-level tasks. Though each disci­pline is a sepa­rate and distinct area of exper­tise, the inter­play between IA, usabil­ity, and web analyt­ics will most intel­li­gently direct your site design. When devel­op­ing a site, take into account both IA and usabil­ity. To start, consider the follow­ing three usabil­ity audits.

1. Make it easy to convert

Your users could be inter­ested in your content or prod­ucts, but if they don’t see how to convert (to purchase or accom­plish a key site goal, which are prob­a­bly the actions that gener­ate revenue for you!) then chances are they wont. Don’t over­whelm your users with calls to action, but at be sure to include links to your sales funnel within page text and in many cases at both the top and bottom of the page. Usabil­ity requires that you think like the user. If a user has gotten far enough through the content of your site to make a purchase deci­sion, then you should put a call to action right there in their work­flow. Don’t make your calls to action too obnox­ious or similar to adver­tis­ing. Use similar format­ting styles and visual treat­ment to that of your site so that users know that they’ll be buying your product, not someone else’s.

2. Guide users with a visual hierarchy

Hier­ar­chy doesn’t only apply to how you cate­go­rize your site sections or pages within sections.  Provid­ing hier­ar­chi­cal visual cues within that content can guide your users in an unob­tru­sive way.

Are font sizes and types utilized consis­tently to help users scan content and navi­gate quickly through page content?  Can users easily differ­en­ti­ate titles, subti­tles, and stan­dard text? Users gener­ally start at the top left of the page and move diag­o­nally down. Help them to move through and absorb page content natu­rally. Being smart with your font styles is an easy way to improve that process.

As a test, try opening a page on your site and closing your eyes. Now quickly reopen them and recog­nize where they are being drawn to on the page. There are profes­sional services (e.g. Crazyegg, click­den­sity) that can perform this test on many users in a more scien­tific way but you can get a good sense of how effec­tive your page hier­ar­chy is with this simple test.

3. Less work, more usable

Reduce the amount of work you ask of the user in order to make the on-site expe­ri­ence as seam­less and easy as possi­ble. Have you ever enjoyed filling out a long online form? Or wished a check­out process on an e-commerce site had been longer? In order to improve usabil­ity and lessen the load on your users, here are some things to think about. If you ask users to provide infor­ma­tion, ask your­self what infor­ma­tion is really vital. Ideally you should elim­i­nate as many inputs as possi­ble. If there is a login process for your site, what infor­ma­tion can your site retain so that users won’t have to input the same infor­ma­tion in the future? If you have a drop down menu with an item that most users click on, would it make sense to bring that item to the top of the list? In general, think about the amount of steps in any process. The fewer steps and actions you put between a user and their goal, the better the user expe­ri­ence.

A compre­hen­sive usabil­ity audit deals with many more areas of usabil­ity, but can only get you so far. Analyt­ics provides a wealth of unbi­ased data about your site, and when you view that data through the lens of IA and usabil­ity will you be able to truly set your site on the path to success and goal/conversion opti­miza­tion. You can only attempt to guess on how to improve your site’s usabil­ity and IA without web analyt­ics. When you have hard data on how users inter­act with your site, you’ll be able to make smarter deci­sions about site devel­op­ment.

As always, if you want more clar­i­fi­ca­tion on these areas of usabil­ity, or would like to know how Search Discovery can help you with an IA, usabil­ity, or web analyt­ics audit, just give us a shout! info@searchdiscovery.com