As a developer, one of my focuses is on creating a website platform that is functional to our clients' needs. We developers try to make the user experience for both the site visitor and the site owner or manager as rewarding as possible. We work to make the site visible for easy searching so that content can be found by the site search or by search engines like Google and Bing. But there are a few things that can hurt the user experience that will make the best developed sites worthless to the visitor. I recently had two experiences that made this point strong to me.
The first experience with bad content and search happened on our trip to Mexico recently. It was early in the morning and we had made it through airport security, found our terminal and had boarded the plane. As we were ready start our trip, the flight attendant announced that the plane was having issues, and that we would be delayed a bit. Well after the mechanics worked, the plane was de-iced and we were on the tarmac, we were told the flight had to be canceled due to this issue with the plane. (Now I have worked in computer support teams before, so I understand things fail over time. This wasn’t what brought me to this point. What followed did.)
Well, after deboarding the plane we attempted to get information on what we could do to get to our destination, preferably close to on-time. We attempted to go online on our smart phones and get the airline’s customer service information. The mobile version of their site was well designed, but poorly laid out. There was a link to customer service, but it was a page with a "contact customer service" link that took us back to the first page. We could not get information we needed to contact the customer service. No phone number, no email address, no nothing. Just a loop of links.
The second experience occured while helping to develop a site for the church I attend. As a church, one of the primary messages, for which the site was built, was to provide information about the church and encourage site visitors to attend a service. We had service recordings, ministerial blogs, and administration biographies easily available. The site was visually pleasing. Google listed the church on the first page of results when searching for it. The problem was the ‘About Us’ page had one sentence on it and the church address and phone number were buried in small text on the ‘Contact Us’ page. The most important information the site was built to convey was not easily found by those looking for it.
The bottom line is if your visitors are not finding what they need when they visit your site, they will find it elsewhere.
This is an opportunity missed, a lead gone, and, worst of all, possibly a deal handed to the competition. If you look at your site as a visitor, not an administrator or company owner, can the information a visitor needs be easily found? One tip I would give as a developer is have someone not overly familiar with your site or company go to your site. Ask them to find something that a normal visitor would need. Your street address, your phone number, your business hours or information on a product or service you provide. Ask them how easily they found it. I go to my wife, a non-technical person, for a review of projects I am be working on from time to time.
My final question to you is, “Do you have what I need... easily available?”