It's amazing how some companies spend thousands of dollars on Web
site development without ever asking the site's intended users what
After all, if you're designing something that's a tool, you've
got to design something that works. Many organizations, though, lose
sight of the fact that people don't go to a Web site to sit and
admire it, they go there for a reason.
Consider this: You never surf the Web aimlessly.
On any given Web page, you have a goal in mind and that goal is
driving what you do. Either you will click on a link that you think
will take you toward your goal, or you'll hit the back button to
take another path.
Unfortunately, too many sites leave us hitting our back buttons.
According to a recent study by Kansas State University
psychologist Keith Jones, the problem lies in the difference between
how Web designers think and how Internet users think. Jones and
other experts believe that too few companies are testing for site
usability before, during or after a Web site has been launched.
And Jones says that business Web sites are some of the most
confusing for users.
When tested, users had a hard time finding information on many
business Web sites because the information wasn't categorized in a
way the user thought it would be.
"You see this a lot with corporate sites. It's organized in the
way the CEO thinks about the company, not how the customers think
about the company. Our research shows that is going to be
problematic, because the only person who can really find information
on that Web site is the CEO," Jones said.
"Every company really needs to sit down with the people they are
trying to serve and make sure their site is providing the services
that it should," said Dan Lee, director of marketing and client
services for Oklahoma-based EyeQ Research, a company that
specializes in content planning and user testing for Web sites.
Using focus groups and one-on-one user testing sessions, EyeQ has
worked with several national clients to test Web site usability.
"Testing always uncovers something that you don't anticipate,"
For example, one EyeQ client almost launched a Web site with an
online reservation process that three out of 10 people couldn't
Another client was about to spend thousands to develop Web site
features that focus group research showed their dealer
representatives didn't want and said they wouldn't use.
Even if you can't hire a research firm to test your site's
usability, there are several simple things you should consider that
would improve a user's experience. …