Survival of the Easiest: The web follows a kind of Sheer Design Darwinism. As you will see, this article is about the key technique for superior customer relationship: Usability!
Amazon.com has sold 5.4 million articles in one day (10th of December in 2007); that is about 62.5 articles per second. How is that astronomical amount possible? Its one simple fact: Customers trust Amazon.com and because of that, no other site is likely to be a serious competitor. Amazon.com has over 55 million active members worldwide (in November 2007).
written by: Dickson Quek, Scott Lee, Sascha Zahner
Why the hell is Amazon and Apple so damn RICH?!?!
Amazon’s “SECRET” to Success Amazon.com follows the path of a usable site: The site treats the users well; Searching is a breeze, they can easily find what they’re looking for. And the site is intuitive and very easy to use; almost anybody knows how it works. Furthermore, the site is available in 5 languages (English, Chinese, French, German and Japanese). They follow the 3 main factors of succeeding in international usability:
A computer must be capable of displaying the user’s native language, character set, and notations (such as currency symbols).
The user interface and documentation must be translated into the user’s native language in a way that is understandable and usable.
A system must match the user’s cultural characteristics.
And they overcome switching of the customers by:
Easy to find item
Its good and easy to return, the more you have bought the better purchase recommendations you have
Affiliates list, user can earn money by recommending the site to others
Easy and fast purchase process
Picture 1: It is very easy to find an item at amazon.com, you just type in what you are searching for and every product is shown to you
(Taken from: www.amazon.com)
Joy of use is mainly the success factor of the Apple I-pod. It sold over 110 million I-Pods (until the end of 2007) in only five years and in the following years it is expected to sell 500 million more. Again, how is that possible?
No digital music player ever before was that easy to use, so simply linked to music offered on the internet and most importantly containing such sophisticated software. I-Pod has a very attractive design, which emits “coolness” and represents a certain style and glamour. Besides that, they are also well-known for its top-quality. Its main advantage is also in the I-Tunes store (an online music store), which has sold 2.5 million songs, 50 million episodes of famous TV-series and 1.3 million movies till date.
That’s a main reason why Apple Inc. is so successful. It has got revenue of US$ 24.01 billion and a net income of US$ 3.50 billion.
Picture 2: The sold I-Pods from 2002 – 2007 Q2
For further information
Amazon.com: all press releases
Apple Inc.: video about the success
What is USABILITY?
So, simply put, Usability is a skill that you adopt when programs such as websites are being used. It is an art of simplifying and improving the ease-of-use during the design process.
Picture 3: This is the process of Usability and Joy of use created by use according to the level of priority. First step is the basic research on information and achieving the basic objective of the website, followed by using Usability tools to make the website user-friendly, easier to use. Lastly, when everything is in place, in comes the implementation of Joy of Use! Making the website interesting, and not just only satisfying the user by giving what he needs, but also what he WANTS, which we define as enjoyment! Who wouldn’t?
As defined by the ‘guru’ of Usability Jakob Nielsen (See background below), it has five essential components:
Learnability: How easy is it for users to finish their tasks once they come across the design?
Efficiency: How quickly can they perform the tasks?
Memorability: After a period of not using the design, how easily can they pick up from where they left off?
Errors: How many errors do users make? Severity of errors and how easily can they recover?
Satisfaction: Will users like to use the design?
For deeper understanding, you may want to visit http://www.useit.com/alertbox/20030825.html, where it is explained in further detail.
If you look carefully, Usability is always emphasizing the easiness to complete a task, or answer doubts. It can be said that, Amazon.com has achieved a high quality of Usability, achieving notably, the likes of learnability and efficiency.
Fun for others, Money for you!
Today, computers are used for many purposes, in which the main goal is to please the user rather than maximizing transactions. Making user interfaces attractive and ‘seductive’ is the ‘joy of use’ users will experience while visiting your websites! A classic example will be www.etsy.com. It is an online shopping website, but it is much more interesting to use than eBay. They categorize products according to colours and by a ‘time-machine’, very much equipped with animations. The website is so animated, that people get addicted to enjoy using it, rather than actually making a purchase.
Another good example is www.touchgraph.com. It helps users see the bigger picture with just one simple search on Google. How? You may ask. The moment you press ‘enter’ when you try to find information on your topic, Touchgraph will automatically expand your search by showing interrelated topics via graphs. From there, you will be able to make your search broader, especially useful when you do not know what exactly you are looking for. At times, you might discover interesting patterns between the results from your topic.
Picture 4: An example of Touchgraph Google
(Taken from www.touchgraph.com)
Picture 5: Joy of Use and Ease of Use have got a direct relationship. The easier it is to use something, the more you enjoy using it
Apple has done it!!Apple has achieved this with their very own I-pod, beating their closest rivals hands-down. Listening to music is already a form of enjoyment to people, but to incorporate the fun of literally using the technology together with listening to music has to be the best experience to savour in life.
Picture 6: The Apple products focus on usability and the joy of using them, they look “cool” and very sophisticated. (Products are from www.apple.com; items: Apple MacBook and I-pod Nano)
Succeeding with your website
Experts figured out a formula for website success is:
B = V x C x L
* B = amount of business done by the site
* V = unique visitors coming to the site
* C = conversion rate (the percentage of visitors who become customers); note that the concept of conversion applies not only to ecommerce sites, but to any site where there is something you want users to do
* L = loyalty rate (the degree to which customers return to conduct repeat business)
You can affect the success by either increasing the amount of people that visit the page (V) or the number of visitors that actually buy something (C):
When you want to multiply the numbers of visitors, it is necessary to raise the advertisement budget. That would mean: When you want to double the number of customers, you would have to double the advertisement budget. A high advertisement budget and promotional links would be useful in creating awareness.
The other possibility is to raise the percentage of visitors that really buy something (increasing the conversion rate). You could reach this by simply redesigning the website in a human-centred design process (the design is orientated on what consumer can work with and like). That is the much cheaper and easier kind because the normal conversion rate of a site is 1-2%, so there is much potential.
Picture 7: Today, the average business improvement after a usability redesign is 83%. Reflecting a high Return on Investment (ROI). In former times, the expected improvement was a little bit higher.
(taken from: http://www.useit.com/alertbox/roi.html)
Hitting Your Customers Right between the Eyes!!
Users spend 30 seconds reviewing a home page. They are a fickle bunch that does not go beyond what is in front of their faces. Therefore it is essential that a web page attracts the user’s attention instantly and is addictive to keep them reading. If visitors can’t use your site, they will just scroll their mouse, click on the little ‘x’ on the top right hand corner of the screen, leave and never become customers. There are plenty of websites available and customers are not obligated to just be loyal to yours. Apart from making a site look good, it is important to know what your customers want.
Useful information: They want to know who you are, what you do and how people can reach you. Users visit websites with a goal in mind and if you can’t answer this they will move on and find a site that can. The content is more important than the design, because of that there are pages with high-quality content that are not very well designed, but gain a lot of traffic over the years.
Helpful Design: The main purpose of sites is to deliver content, so make sure fonts are clear and easy to read. And users usually scan the content for relevance before reading on, therefore large blocks of text that cannot be easily interpreted will drive users away.Including items such as bullet points, headers and highlighted keywords are great tactics to help users filter the content they read.
Intuitive usable webpage: Users in the web like to do things intuitively. So the higher the cognitive load and less intuitive the navigation of your website, the more likely it is that a customer will leave the site and search for other alternatives. As well as when a user searches for something he chooses the first reasonable option instead of searching for the easiest way. Optimizing is hard, and it takes a long time. Satisfying is more efficient.
Controllable website: Users want to be able to control their browser and rely on the consistent data presentation throughout the site. Give them a site which is easy to navigate around, and ‘treats them well’. That includes respecting of common web standards such as links change color once visited and avoidance of Pop-ups, etc.
Complete Sites: Customers HATE it when sites crash the browser as well as “Under Construction” markers. Either the information is there or not. They have very low tolerance, so always give customers something for going to the page, if it is not working, then simply DON’T put it out there.
Read more about “How to make your website sing for you.”
FAILURE – I can’t buy anything here!!!
In the web pages of both HP and Canon, it is impossible to select an appropriate printer that caters to your needs; they provide information that is redundant. The site is not able to give the customer the information he wants. The page should offer information that would aid a customer in their decision making process for example: “When printing more than 50 pages per day, the following printers are suitable…” Evidently in the above example, even big producers have bad homepages. In reality most sites are bad, they do not have a good design (about 90% of all websites are badly designed and people only spend about 10% of their time at these pages) and they are difficult to use (over 50% of the pages are described as a failure by the customers).
The fact is: You will not have to create a perfect site, you just have to have a better page than the competitors, thus creating a better and wholesome experience for your customers.
Tools to create a top-selling page
Engaging Professionals: When creating a website, it is important to engage the right people: Experts in user experience have a good knowledge of customers’ behaviour. These people are able to conduct field researches, create appropriate designs for interactions, efficiently develop rapid prototypes and conduct usability tests.
To reach the perfect goal, it is essential that these usability experts work together with a number of professionals such as graphic designers, web coders and the marketing.
So using only a graphic designer has its limitations, because he does not usually know the needs of the customer.
Market research: A Powerful tool that will greatly enhance a website is a “customer field study”, it enables a concise understanding of customers’ needs and wants. To enable optimum effectiveness of the survey, the study should be conducted at places where the website is accessible to the customer. Apart from just asking questions, it is more effective to observe the customer’s reaction as words are empty without actions.
So how Usability and Joy of Use Prints $$$
When Usability and joy of use is present in your web, it will attract many visitors which might become potential customers. Revenue from advertisement will soon follow as advertisers impressed by the huge user volume will want their products to be seen in your site.
Apart from a good advertisement budget and a well-designed page, it is most important that visitors finish the purchase.
In most cases customers do not finish their purchases because:
1. They are just comparing product by dumping everything in the shopping cart
2. The process is too onerous, there are unnecessary questions, the process is a huge hassle and gets in the way of the purchase.
The buyer has to feel that this is a secure site and that his privacy is respected. There will have to be information about stock availability, shipping and other extra costs.
When they do not finish the purchase you won’t get money and that will contribute to the failure of a website.
If you want to read more about transforming a bad to a good website: http://www.informationweek.com/773/web.htm
Jakob Nielsen is the ‘guru’ of Usability as described by The New York Times, or even “the Usability Pope” as described by a magazine inventing several Usability methods. He holds a Ph.D. in human-computer interaction from the Technical University of Denmark in Copenhagen and was a distinguished engineer with Sun Microsystems. He even has his very own website, www.useit.com, which is created for a single reason, to provide solid Usability information.
Donald Arthur Norman is a professor of Computer Science, and loves products which are enjoyable to use, a feature which he places emotion and design, or heart and mind. He also co-founded the Nielsen Norman Group together with Jakob Nielsen. Their vision is to help enhance user experience and help companies develop and design corporate products and services.
Vincent Flanders is formerly a Director of Database Marketing for Lightspeed Systems and now the creator of successful website, www.Webpagesthatsuck.com, winning multiple awards including one of PC Magazine’s Top 100 Websites, by commenting on how badly designed are real live sites, and explaining what is so wrong with them! He also had a live discussion with ‘guru’ Jakob Nielsen on ‘How should websites look?”