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