For a website to be attractive it must have good clean design. Your logo, font, and colors should reflect the nature of your business. Big and bold is what I was taught to do. It still holds true and is almost exaggerated in visual design today.
But, a critical question remains after all the professional photography and graphics are finished: when your potential customers get to your site, are they frustrated by scrolling right, then back up and down? Do they have to dig so deep they give up before they contact you about your services?
Usability is not hard to do. You can employ someone to run a few tests for you—or you can do it on your, for nothing but time. Here’s how…
First, you need to figure out a task that someone might try to accomplish when using your site—such as find out how foundation repair should work and learn to recognize the common pitfalls, find that gift item that matches the user’s criteria of utility and price, or get the haircut they need at a reasonable price.
Once you have the task laid out in one short statement—just one—you can proceed with the actual testing. Through colleagues and friends, find eight people that represent your target audience. It is ok if demographics vary but be sure they have a need to find out more about your product or services.
After the first mock-up of the website, you conduct short 30 minute sessions with each person. Begin by giving them the one critical assignment, sit back, and document each thing they click on anywhere on your website. Now, usability is not about whether they like the look or the colors of the site—that is relegated to focus testing. You are after an answer to the question, “How easy is it to use this site?”
After the testing you will find that two people are completely out of the ballpark (referred to as outliers) and had no luck finding anything. But six out of eight will have valuable information that you can give to your website designer to revamp only the things that caused problems.
After the second iteration of website design, hold one more six person usability test to find out if the new design improved the speed and ease of answering the most common question. If the confusion has diminished you can consider the site ready to go and launch.
Design and usability go hand in hand. Design grabs and focuses attention. Usability ensures that someone will follow through and call you for products or services. On both counts, keep it simple, and direct. To be trite: less is more.
To see examples of my work for small businesses and artists, see this page on this website.