2013 – Year of The Excellent User Experience

We’re about ready to turn the corner on another year.  And frankly, we’re hoping everyone will agree to make 2013 the Year of The Excellent User Experience.

We heard from a lot of people this past year asking why they don’t rank better.  While that might seem like a naive question to some of you, it’s still a legitimate question.  These folks have a version of the same story in most cases, too.  They’ve built unique content.  They have a deep site.  They have followed the best practices for SEO.  They have clean sitemaps.  They have growing traffic and so on.

And in almost every case, when we asked them if they do usability testing, they scrunch up their faces and say, “Whassat?”

They miss this critical step because they don’t understand the value usability testing provides.  Or they skip this step due to cost, or because they think they understand the user’s experience well enough to “make the call” on the topic on their own.

Not understanding what usability is, the data it provides and how that data can impact your business is reasonable.  Obviously a state the business should move past, but understandable.  We’ve all got something to learn in life.

Saying it costs too much is a bit more of a cop out.  It’s like saying you won’t trade that $10 bill in your pocket today for a $100 bill next week.  Yes, you’re out-of-pocket the 10 smackers.  Yes, you have to wait to next week for the $100.  But…umm…there’s a real, measureable ROI here.  Is it a business goal to skip initiatives that unlock increased revenue?

Now, that third camp.  The group who thinks they know enough to make the call.  That’s just plain dangerous.  Always solicit feedback from your visitors on ways to improve your site.  Usability testing helps direct that feedback gathering into a shorter window of time, and focuses it across specific tasks.  To say the results from usability testing can be eye opening is an understatement.

Desktops, laptops, tablets, smartphones oh my…

This holiday season will likely see the biggest jump in consumption of content via mobile devices ever.  There are more mobile choices available now than froyo toppings at Pinkberry.

But how many of you out there have actually tested across devices and screen sizes to ensure the experience your visitors get is excellent.  I don’t mean “good enough”.  I mean excellent.  Everything renders as planned and the content is easily accessible.  There is a big difference between what works on a 22” touch screen vs. a smartphone, obviously.  But have you tested the site at both extremes?

Just last week I mentioned to the organizers of an event I was speaking at that their site didn’t render well on my Window’s Phone.  They noted the issue and later took a poke at me on Twitter (all good natured, to be clear).  But this was a glaring example of a missed opportunity.  I know it was tested on an iPhone.  I know it was tested on an iPad.  But what if your visitors aren’t on those devices?  You’re essentially telling them you don’t value them.  Their opinion of you changes to something negative and they seek engagement (and purchases) elsewhere.

All because a designer or engineer failed to run the site through an easily accessible emulator to see what it would look like?  This is a product planning failure that will cost you business.  Usability testing can uncover things like this and save you that drama.

And if you haven’t already started researching this point, now is a great time to start.  With touch-enabled devices pretty much the norm today, what effect do those swipes, pinches and taps have on people’s interactions with a website and its content.  If a visitor expects to tap an image to see a larger version and you require them to click on a font-size-1 link nearby, that’s not an intuitive, or good, experience for them.  Works great on my desktop, but lousy on my phone.

So as we slide into 2013, please make focusing on your user experience a key goal in the coming year.  If you wow your visitors, they’ll love you, keep coming back and recommend you to people.  When an engine sees that situation happening, we can’t wait to see what the fuss is about and we dive in head first.  Bottom line for you is wowing the visitor can lead to better rankings, more traffic and more success.

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