For Marketers: Explaining the Importance of Usability to Site Owners – Part Three
Online marketing companies typically don’t offer web site usability testing for their clients because how we use web sites isn’t a priority for marketing. Search engine rank is.
To their credit, some search engine marketing companies got the message from Google and Bing that user experience signals reach them. What you do online is of serious interest to search engines, as well as why and how you do it. As much we dislike losing our privacy on the Internet, the plus side is that we’re teaching human computer behavior for any entity that’s interested.
Why do you think Facebook keeps changing their layout and advertising offerings? It’s not to torture us. Its live user testing and when we scream loud enough, they know what to change. Some of their changes to layout and functions are met with resistance at first, but we eventually go along with it because there’s either no choice or we finally learned the new way and adapted. This is human computer testing in action. It comes with risks.
Change Means Time and We Don’t Have Time
Every time a web site makes a change to layout anywhere, its regular visitors grumble because they have to re-learn the lay of the land and this takes time. We’re impatient creatures. Even if a lay out is a good change, we’ll still react as if someone took away our ice cream.
Upsetting online visitors is something web site owners loathe because their reputation is at stake and the price they may pay shows up in changes in rank or worse a game of bouncy bounce with search engine indexing as things like changes in URL structure, information architecture and content run their course.
The workaround to this bad dream is that site owners choose to not get their web sites reviewed for user experience or get a deeper audit for conversions analysis from the user perspective. Instead, they continue to dump enormous monthly budgets on links, PPC and basic SEO as a token sacrifice to the search engine gods. Not a dime go towards user experience changes because, frankly, how we use web sites is not as important as shoving product landing pages in our faces.
Imagine a World without SEO
Human beings are rugged folk. Back in the day when we wanted to find something we hopped up on our horse and traveled familiar trails to get to whatever we needed. There were no videos displayed in tree trunks or banner ads hanging from branches along the way. There really was a time when leisurely browsing was possible and looked forward to. No more. Today, marketers are desperate and getting greedy. My favorite example of that are clothing sites that place a haze mist over a page of product images and the only way to clear the mist is click the box in your face demanding that you sign in first to gain access to the mysterious island beyond the misty veil.
Marketers will tell you that new signup conversion sign ups increased and gleefully send their invoice. Meanwhile, all the other people who didn’t bow to the demand to sign up to see the products are racing to tell their friends in Facebook and over dinner about the nasty web site that advertised great sales but would not let you see or get to them unless you gave them personal information. How much of your monthly advertising budget is going into wrecking your brand?
There are so many glaring issues with web sites I see from site owners who grudgingly allow a usability site review as part of their internet marketing strategy. It does not occur to site owners that poor rank, high bounce rates and sluggish conversions could be the web design’s fault. When I show them all the barriers to conversions, some will make fixes but many will ignore usability recommendations and put their money on search engine marketing, without ever considering that search engines will prefer the well-designed competitor because people do.