So your website is fancy. But is it usable?
Alot of people get caught up in bells and whistles and then wonder why there is such a low visitor to sale conversion ratio on their website.
If someone can't find what their looking for easily they're going to hit the back button and go to a different site.
Usability has 2 key parts.
1. A intuitive navigation system
2. An accurate and reasonably specific index of your content
For #1 all you need to identifiable, easy to understand and use navigation system. A column of links on the left hand side works fine. But some people either trying to be unique or improve upon this end up losing something that is so simple to do.
#2 is very important. What if Amazon.com simply had books, and music. And if you wanted books you clicked on books and were presented with a list of say 100, and you had the option of clicking more to see another 100 and so on? Thats right they'd go out of business pretty fast.
Think people are too stupid to do that? Think again. While they don't have the inventory of amazon.com there are plenty of websites out there who simply divide things up by their most general descriptors and leave it at that. So the potential customer has to wade through listing after listing to find the specific item he wants.
Now lets pick on some poor companies.
A jeweler who has a prominent listing in Yahoo. Their website suffers from #1 and #2 - not that you'll ever find the inventory because their menu and navigation system is so bad.
The funny thing is they probably spent thousands and thousands on that website and it is one of the worst websites I've ever seen from a usability standpoint.
The #1 listed jeweler in Yahoo. These people also suffer from both flaws. Their navigation is better than bulgari but its not as intuitive as it could be. But they really suffer from a poor index.
They simply list all earrings together, all rings together, all bracelets together.
So if you want some silver earrings, or a gold bracelet, you must wade through all of the rest finding exactly what you want - visitors shouldn't have to manually search through your inventory and a poor index will turn them off and turn them away.
This site has a good navigation but still suffers from a poor index. Without a reasonably specific index of your goods a consumer will be turned off.
Their navigation can be improved - its usable but it takes some effort. However this is another example of a poor index.
And those 2 sites are also highly listed by yahoo.
This site is not as highly listed by yahoo but it is by far the best one. Their menu system is very usable and while they could still benefit from more specific indexing in other sections of their site - the ring section is nicely indexed.
Don't make the same mistakes the above sites made. Form should never exceed function because function is what pays the bills.
So does anyone else have any examples of poorly built websites?