I was recently driving to Washington Dulles Airport late at night to catch a flight to Istanbul. It was raining, visibility was poor, and it struck me how difficult it is to read and understand airport signage. I’m sure that anyone who travels at all can relate to this. Airport signage, I believe, was designed by specialists in sign confusion, because these signs tend to do nothing but confuse the driver. This is especially true when you’re driving in a crowded loop, where many people are trying to get in and out without much reaction time.
For example, at a rental car return I recently encountered, there was a sign that said: “do not enter”. A sign ahead of it, which was pointing towards a parking lot, could very easily have been pointing to the next left or the left right in front of me. It just was not clear. It makes you wonder: Do people drive their own airports and say, “That’s a good sign, and it makes a lot of sense”? In all honesty, I don’t believe that they do. If you talk to any business traveler, they will tell you this is a frustration they consistently experience.
Your Website is Your Signage
For those of you in business who use your website for critical information—either for presale or for the purpose of support—it is important that you really think about the customer experiences your website. A good way to do this is to have someone look through the website from the eyes of a customer. I realize that at the higher levels of business, there are firms that do this professionally. However, all you really need is someone who doesn’t typically visit your website, who is willing to spend some time exploring it. This could be someone such as a family member or a student that is home from college for a few days. Ask them if they will click through the pages of your website and even give them specific things to find like a brochure or a product description. Ask them to tell you how long it takes them to find certain pages or documents embedded in your website.
Anyone can make these observations—it does not require a subject matter expert. All too often, web design is aesthetically pleasing but not customer friendly. That’s because web designers are people that really love design, so things certainly look good! But it doesn’t mean that the information is serving your business purposes or your customer in the best way possible.
Make it Simpler, Make it Better
There are many practical tips out there for creating a website that produces a positive user experience for your customer. While I can’t list all of those tips here, I can share some good advice from Andrew Kucheriavy, founder and CEO of Intechnic: “Ask the question every time you want to add another bell or whistle to your website. Why bother? Why should we add this? How is it going to be of value to our customers?”, says Kucheriavy, “You don’t want to solve one problem and create another in the process. Always remember the “simpler is always better” principle when adding new features.”
If you are in the B2B category (that is, if you sell an industrial product or service to a business) then you probably know that these businesses don’t have time to waste. They want to find the correct information, and they want be able to find it quickly and easily. A user-friendly website streamlines the experience for your customer and will get them where they need to go without confusion.
Questions to consider:
- Is my website directing the customer in a clear way or is it creating roadblocks and confusion?
- Can I simplify the navigation process for my customer, and are there any superfluous features that do not add value?
- What friends or family can I ask to “test drive” my website, who will also provide valuable feedback?