30/07/2010

By Rob Shaw, Managing Director, Ephipany Solutions

Well I’ll be honest she wouldn’t necessarily put her feelings into words that well (despite an astounding vocabulary — where do they get it all from?) but after watching her interact with apps and websites on my iPhone it tells me a lot about how valuable an intuitive interface can be.

We spend a lot of time advising clients on their Pay Per Click (PPC) & Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) campaigns and increasingly on the conversion rate and usability of their website. Why break our backs with best in class PPC & SEO if everyone hits a brick wall with the destination website?

Today we are all brought up with the web and have a reasonably sophisticated experience in using a variety of on-line tools and websites. However this can often lead to fatal mistakes in web design where we simply make the assumption that people will ‘work it out’ and know how to interact with the site.

So, back to Eliza (the 3 year old), what can she tell me about interaction? Well, since my iPhone 4 arrived (don’t even get me started on that one!) I’ve set up my old iPhone as a tool for her with a mix of music (mad on The Sound of Music right now), video and educational (and not so educational) iPhone apps. What amazes me is her ability to interact with an app and understand most of its features so quickly and then take the knowledge of how to interact onto the next app. Now don’t get me wrong she’s bright as a button (proud and biased dad!) but looking at some of these tools it’s quite clear that their power is not in the complexity of their game play or programming but the thought that has gone into their user interface design.

All of these best practices can transfer directly into the approach you need to take to your website. Many years ago I was studying Human Computer Interaction (HCI) and in that topic there are a lot of references made to following a paradigm. The best example they gave was the Hotel paradigm. When you go on holiday or away on business the chances are you have never set foot in the hotel you are staying in before and yet you still know what to do. Why, because you have an expectation (a way of thinking) as to how the hotel experience will operate. You will walk in, turn left or right and expect to see a reception desk. You give them your details; they give you a key and point you in the right direction. All very simple even though it was your first time staying at that particular hotel, all operating within the same paradigm.

If you want people to transact easily on your website then the same logic follows. You work hard for them to get to your site in the first place (PPC, SEO, traditional marketing) and once they are there the chances are they have an expectation on how they expect it to function. They will have expectations on what they can click on, what they can’t, how to navigate and what to expect as they interact. If you meet these expectations people are comfortable with the experience, if you don’t you will need a pretty compelling reason for them to hang around and learn something new (a paradigm shift!).

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