Lost in Translation?
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If that was all Greek to you, don’t worry. To most, it might as well have been. They never would have known the difference. In the truest sense of the phrase, this is pretty much how it feels when a non-tech-savvy person tries to utilize, market with or even improve his Web site—the classic “failure to communicate” (speaking louder and gesticulating wildly won’t help you, either). And if you happen to think Twitter is merely the sound of annoying laughter or still have a Friendster profile, that “non-tech-savvy person” is probably you.
No comprende? (Spanish, yes, but you get the drift.) It’s worse than we thought. The Internet is not a fad. It’s not going anywhere. But instead of working for their hosts, many of today’s Web sites are working against them. In plain English, “Nothing will lose customer trust faster than a poorly designed or unusable Web site,” confirmed Nick Finck, director of user experience at Seattle-based Web-design firm Blue Flavor.
Your crash course in Web fundamentals begins right here, right now.
What’s the Use?
Whether the site needs a complete overhaul or a few minor tweaks, it is essential to consider its user population from the get-go. “Web site usability relies heavily on understanding who the users are and listening to them,” Finck said. Though this can be accomplished in many ways, including focus groups and surveys, the best one he’s found is actually sitting down and talking with customers about their experiences.
Robin Williams, author of The Non-Designer’s Design Book, goes one step further. She suggested having someone who’s never been to your site navigate each page in front of you, pretending they are your target audience. “Your job is to put duct tape over your mouth and tie your hands behind your back—just watch,” Williams emphasized. Although those measures may be slightly extreme, it all goes back to one crucial point. “The key is to identify the target users you wish to focus on and design your Web site to best accommodate them,” Finck affirmed. The bonus? These information-gathering techniques are often budget-friendly, he said.