Planning a usable website: A three-step guide
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A website is like an information flow, with you as the provider and your site visitors as the receivers of the information. If you don't plan your website with this in mind right from the start, you could find yourself with a brand new website that solves all your immediate needs... but not those of your site visitors.
Clicking away from your website has never been easier for Internet users. There are about 35 million websites competing with yours on the Internet (source: http://www.zooknic.com/Domains/counts.html). Search engine results are becoming better and better and Internet connection speeds faster and faster - finding one of your competitors' websites is now very quick and very easy.
1. Work out your site visitors' immediate needs
Your website has to provide information that fulfills the immediate needs of your site visitors. This is the fundamental principle behind usable website design, so let's repeat it one more time: Your website has to provide information that fulfills the immediate needs of your site visitors.
OK, now we've got that straight, we come up against a problem: Your goals for the website are probably different to the immediate needs of your site visitors. Oh dear.
Let's illustrate this problem, and its solution, with the example of a web design company's website. Their immediate goal is to get visitors to contact them and ultimately commission them to do some web development work. Their site visitors are probably interested in getting web development work done (if not, why are they on this website?), but it's unlikely that this is their immediate need when they arrive at the website.
The immediate needs of the site visitors' are probably to answer questions like:
Can I trust them?
Are they any good at what they do?
Will they get the job done?
Before the website begins to sell to its site visitors, it has to answer their questions and put their fears to rest. This is fundamentally important, so one more time: Before the website begins to sell to its site visitors, it has to answer their questions and put their fears to rest.
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