For SMALL business sites
- NOT for online stores:
SET REALISTIC GOALS
Write down specifically what the website is supposed to achieve for the small business. Consider whether these goal(s) are realistic. Consider that the site will need to be KEPT UP TO DATE with resources available to the small business.
KNOW YOUR USERS
Write down who you expect to visit the site. For each type of person or group, write a paragraph about how they are different from the people who are creating the site.
KNOW THE USER'S TASKS
For each type of person or group, write down 1-3 goals that THEY would have in visiting the site. (Not the small business's goal for them, the users' goal).
USE DEFACTO STANDARD NAVIGATION
For a small business, use a simple navigation system with the main menu across the top and secondary menu, if any, down the left side. One link in the main menu must be Contact us. Make sure the Contact us page contains correct information. Put the Name and (logo of the business, if any) in the upper left hand corner. Yes, make it clickable to return to the home page. Yes, add a text link near the upper left hand corner for the same purpose. Make sure that all navigation links look clickable. Naturally, the choices in the navigation/menu system should support what you figured out in steps 1-3.
AVOID BLEEDING EDGE TECHNOLOGY
Unless the small business provides products or services primarily to software developers, make sure the site loads quickly even if accessed over a 56K modem; fits into 800 x 600, and works with a browser a version or so back, without the need for any annoying "click here to download what you need to read this site."
BE UP FRONT WITH WHAT'S THIS
Put the tagline or value proposition near the logo/business name. Make sure a first-time visitor can see and understand at a glance what the small business does.
USE A GRAPHIC DESIGNER
Avoid the DYI pitfall. Do require your graphic designer to work within these guidelines 10. Tell the designer what mood you want to achieve; what's the most important thing on each page; which things on the page you want connected in the visitor's mind. Then listen to what your GD tells you
DON'T USE A-R-S-E
(Architecture for Recursive System Engineering)
"I'm a user; I like it; All users will like it." Don't. Free yourself of the illusion that everybody else thinks like you do. We're not that smart. What you or I or anybody else likes is secondary. Most important is what the site is supposed to do for the target audience, and whether it works for them.
CUT TEXT, ADD PICTURES
OK, almost there. Now try to cut the text (not counting links) in half and still say the same thing. If you can't, hire a good editor. If possible without making the pages load too slowly, add more illustrations, example pictures, graphics.
GET FEEDBACK EARLY AND OFTEN
from real users on your conclusions in steps 1-3. For point 4, do simple usability tests to see if people can figure out how to find what they want with your navigation system (Are you using words they understand in your links? Are the tasks they want to do represented?) and that they can correctly identify what is important and what is clickable on each page. When you find problems, make changes in the site.
Laura Arlov, Oslo
- Usability in 10 points for small business sites @ comp.human.factors