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usability-pigA recent website search made me realize that we all do website usability testing each day. It takes place every time you search. We are either satisfied or disappointed with our ability to maneuver around a website to complete a task. We all want to complete these tasks in the most streamlined manner.

For instance, I wanted to buy a sliced ham for a recent family gathering. I needed ham for six sandwiches and some extra for family members to take home. My intent was to order the ham online or by phone and pick it up at the specialty ham store within the local grocery store. Simple, right?

Misadventures of landing somewhere other than the home page
These were the steps in my online search for the ham:

  • I Googled the specialty ham brand and clicked the “Locations” link in the search results.
  • After finding the nearest store, I looked for store hours and how to place an order by phone or online. I called the phone number, but it went straight to the grocery store line with no option to reach the specialty ham store.
  • I found the hours and through another page on the site read that it’s not possible to place an order directly to the store. I was then stuck on this page with no way to go back to the home page. Clicking on the logo did not link to the home page.
  • I Googled the name of the specialty ham brand again and saw a second website for the brand.
  • On this second website, I clicked on “Products” page. This page had information on various ham products and helpful information about how many pounds of ham served how many people. Again, I didn’t see a way to order a ham from this page or anywhere else on the site.

At this point I’ve spent way more time than I’ve allotted to complete my task of ordering a ham. The number I would pick on a disgruntled customer meter is rising toward 10 (in the “I don’t want to ever deal with this brand again” zone).

  • I noticed a small navigation link for “Shipping” at the top of the page. To me that doesn’t mean the same as “Order” or “Buy ham.” I clicked it anyway. Lo and behold, it was a link to an online catalog. “Catalog” would be a more meaningful link than “Shipping.”
  • I bought a 7-pound ham knowing that was more ham than I needed because I couldn’t find my way back to a Quarter Ham I had seen earlier on a page. My pork patience had run out.

What’s the good news? The ham came in time for our family’s get together and it was delicious.

Take time to look at your brand’s website usability
What happens on your brand’s website? Do you have multiple URLs that can get your potential customer lost and unable to complete their task? Would a customer be able to complete the task at any point of entry on your site—even if it is not the home page of your website?

Other roadblocks that can quickly disgruntle customers:

  • Contact information is not easily found
  • Too many steps to complete a task
  • Site cannot be easily viewed on a mobile device

Chances are you’re on your own company’s website a lot. Maybe too much. It helps to take a step back with a fresh perspective. Do so by tuning in to your visits to other websites. Note the pitfalls in completing your task—whether purchasing or searching for information. Keep a running list of what made the path difficult for you. Then take another look at your site and see if you can improve its usability to bring in more bacon to your company’s bottom line.

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