‘Web Users Getting More Ruthless’

5 June, 2008

I was interested to read a post on the BBC website about web users becoming more ruthless.

Web guru, Jakob Nielsen’s annual usability report shows that people are becoming much less patient when they go online. Instead of looking around, they want to reach a site quickly, complete a task and leave.

The success rate for people achieving what they set out to do online is currently about 75%. Back in 1999 this figure stood at 60%. Dr Nielsen noted two reasons for the increase. Firstly, designs have improved and secondly ‘users have become accustomed to that interactive environment’. This also makes them more resistant to highlighted promotions that try to distract them.

Interestingly (given the popularity of blogs and Web 2.0 sites) the research also revealed that web users are becoming much more frustrated with widgets and other ‘extras’ which increase download times.

So what does this mean for web owners? How can you ensure that you don’t alienate potential customers when they visit your site? Here are our top five tips.

1. Don’t assume that people are interested in your web site for its own sake. They are visiting your site to fulfill a purpose, whether it’s to find information, make a purchase or complete a booking. Keep this purpose the focus of your site.

2. Make it clear on your home page what it is you do. This may sound obvious but it’s something that is often overlooked. According to Web Pages that Suck, people should be able to work out what your site is about in 4 seconds.

3. Ensure that your website is easy to navigate and that information is structured in a logical way. Navigation should remain consistent throughout and visitors should be aware of where they are in the site, how they can move on and how they can get back to the home page.

4. Text should be concise, well organised and split into manageable chunks. Include your most important points first. It take people longer to read from a computer screen and users tend to avoid reading through overly long paragraphs. Instead they skim and scan. Make it easier for them to do this by using subheadings and bullet points where possible.

5. Avoid pointless design features or images that ultimately detract from your message and get in the way of visitors completing the task they set out to complete on entering the site.

Further Reading:

Web Users Getting More Ruthless (BBC Article) – http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/7417496.stm

Jakob Nielsen’s Website – www.useit.com

Web Pages that Suck – www.webpagesthatsuck.com

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