If you have ever used a website and become frustrated with it, you know first hand why a usability site audit is necessary. And, because there are so many websites that are difficult to use, you may not be surprised to learn it was never tested to begin with.
Every website has a short shelf life.
During the 1990’s when website design was in the exploratory stages the common mantra was “build it and they will come”. They did because there was no other place to go and if you were lucky to be the first website, you could get away with imperfections. This is no longer the case.
For the past 20 years web designers, programmers and marketers have watched how people search for and interact with web pages. We learned that everyone wants in. That means making web pages accessible regardless of age, handicap, or device. Competition brought on brand challenges. Where there were once hundreds of thousands of directories and search engines, today Google dominates the search engine space; so much so that when they declared they wanted to index only mobile-ready web pages, everybody ran back to the drawing board for redesigns.
With each new programming language comes new opportunities for developers.
Small businesses with tiny budgets learn the harsh realities of web site ownership in a playing field where companies with more money can pay for better built web sites that rank well in search engines and perform well for their visitors.
It is website performance for people that counts most of all.
We know from years of studies in human factors and neurosciences that when someone arrives at a web page or mobile application, for example, their need must be met in under 5 seconds. The most basic need is “Do they have what I came for?” If that question requires page scrolling, clicking links, browsing menus and searching for content, that experience has to be pain free and effortless.
Companies are sometimes less informed about their target market.
They have a limited perspective, ideas based on hope, and they rarely ever consider human behavior, special needs, country cultural differences, or thought to watch anyone use their website in various environments.
Usability website testing should be set up and ready to go during the development stage and after the site goes live.
It should be part of ongoing maintenance during the life of the website property. There are web design standards and guidelines established by the World Wide Web Consortium that provide unity and cohesiveness for the Internet experience, but those standards are constantly re-visited and revised. In several countries, including the US and UK, there are laws pertaining to doing business online with special needs people. There is a lack of knowledge of what a special needs user is. The definition includes people who wear corrective eye wear, are ADD or ADHD, are colorblind and those who use special computer devices that do not come with a mouse.
Certain countries do not use desktop or lap top computers. Their populations rely on cell phones. Language, terminology and grammar are not universally understood. This makes the role of an information architect vitally important for web design and digital marketing.
A website usability audit should be performed when:
- The data indicates traffic declined after a redesign.
- The data indicates traffic bounces after landing on the site.
- Revenue is not meeting expectations.
- Revenue tanked.
- Pages rank well but conversions are poor.
- There was a redesign and all hell broke loose after that.
- The site is a few years old and no longer meeting user or business expectations.
- A professional SEO insists that one is needed to provide support for their marketing strategies.
- The site was never tested to begin with.
A usability site audit helps to determine the success or failure of the website users’ experience.
You should be concerned if your website is not tested by an expert in the usability field.
Companies are not hiring the right website designers. It takes a team of people to build, test, maintain and promote a website. One person can not do it all, despite every possible attempt by people to do it this way. A graphic designer is not a performance engineer. An SEO is not an accessibility specialist. A user interface designer is not a data analyst. Someone needs to be trained in programming, mobile design, information architecture, human behavior, persuasive design, functional testing and content writing.
The smart website owner leaves nothing to chance. Their investment must be competitive. A usability audit may result in a strong recommendation to redesign the website. An official report with documented findings provides proof and actionable recommendations, mockups, sketches, resources and data to be used for the new design. It may recommend user testing, mobile device testing, accessibility testing, performance testing and search engine optimization enhancements.
What Do I Need in My Website Usability Audit?
A full website audit for a large website may be expensive when performed by trained usability specialists. If a site owner has a good idea where an issue is located, that area can be the focus. Sometimes the audit is to test for mobile user experience only. What is not recommended is when a site has a global target market and an ecommerce section, and the site owner wants under 5 pages audited. Those 5 pages will not represent the performance or user experience of an enterprise website that targets customers from many countries. They can be, however, proof of concept or examples of a larger audit or used for discussions with stakeholders who may need convincing that a full site audit is warranted.
What is The Value of Getting a Website Usability Audit?
Your brand. Your reputation. Sales. Conversions. Search engine rankings. Your customers’ satisfaction. You value those things. It makes sense to do whatever it takes to properly support them.
A website audit and site testing are worth the investment if you want your online business to be successful and risk-free for a long time.