Friday, October 05, 2007

Measuring Usability: The Basics

Usability measuring techniques ...

"Usability is not a luxury. If your website drives revenue, no matter how big or small, you have a vested interest in turning motivated users into buyers, and that requires understanding the needs and expectations of those users. Fortunately, you don't need a big budget or a team of men in white coats wielding eye-tracking lasers to get a handle on your website's usability.

Assessing your current usability means knowing where to look and creating measurable benchmarks and goals. This article will help you assess your current usability, quickly and easily, as well as give you some basic tools for improving your user experience and, with it, your bottom line. I'm going to break it down into three major areas: (1) Web analytics, (2) Conversion rates, and (3) Split (A/B) testing.

(1) Web Analytics

If you have a commercial website of any kind, you're already collecting data in the form of traffic logs. Odds are good that you also have an analytics package to analyze those logs, either through your host or a third party, like Google Analytics. If you don't, talk to your hosting company or see the Resources section at the end of this paper.

You can get quite a few clues about usability from your existing traffic logs and web analytics. Although analytics have been around just about as long as websites, they've matured a lot in the last few years, and we're still just beginning to tap into their value.

It's All Relative
Whenever you're taking a fresh look at your web analytics, it's important to keep in mind that there are seldom "right" answers. Getting caught up in absolutes and what any given number should be is a good way to make yourself crazy. Websites vary wildly, and you need to have a good understanding of your own site's baselines. For any given metric, focus on improvement and gradually sorting out the story behind the number.

So, what are some of the numbers that matter? Following are a few of the metrics that speak to usability issues.

Metric: Pages per Visit
One of your first clues to your website's usability is whether or not your visitors stay on your site long enough to see what you have to offer. Web surfers are notoriously impatient, and this is probably the biggest battle of website usability. Tracking the average number of pages per visit is a good starting point to understanding whether or not your visitors are sticking around. Again, don't focus too much on what a "good" number is. If you have a blog where most of the visitors hit the home page, getting them to 2-3 pages/visit could be fantastic. If you've got an e-commerce site where the product ordering page is 5 layers deep, that same 2-3 page/visit average is probably a bad sign."    (Continued via User Effect)    [Usability Resources]

Measuring Usability - Usability, User Interface Design

Measuring Usability

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