Make Good Website Usability Your New Years ResolutionIt is nearly a New Year, and it is always a good time to stand back from your website and take a long hard look at it. And the first people you should ask to review it are not in-house, but your customers. Ask yourself when was the last time either you or your internet marketing agency actually spoke to your real life website visitors. Not a survey, because we all lie in surveys, but an honest appraisal of what your site visitors think.

Are you a retail or customer-oriented environment? Then, you have a first class opportunity to quiz your visitors about their experience on your website. And the time of goodwill is the best time to encourage your customers to be honest. Ply them with mince pies and Xmas cheer, a happy smile from a member of staff, and a gift voucher or a chance to enjoy the best your company offers, in return for an honest reply, and you could be entering 2011 with a critical yet positive approach to e-commerce and internet marketing.

You can do the same through your website but website visitors invariably behave like small children rather than a focus group – they answer what they think you want to hear in order to be in with a chance to win a prize. Or they behave like really stroppy children and tell you untruths because they dislike the present you are offering.

If you only ask one question this Christmas, ask about your page layouts. Whether that is your homepage, landing pages, e-commerce site or your comments page, find out whether it works for your customer. For repeat visitors, are they finding the information they require or do they need to scroll through interminable blog posts to finally find the offer they were looking for? Are people following you specifically for certain content, in which case, are you making it a simple task to find that content? Do your website pages interlink naturally and logically? Or are there no links per se or just ones to major product pages? Ask about social media and learn about your audience. If you can’t talk to them as Christmas approaches, you never can!

Use this Christmas season to establish if your website works. Not just for your customers, but also look at how it works for the search engines. And then consider if it is actually working for you.

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About the author:

A practising internet marketing consultant since 1996, Lindsey Annison helps companies improve their website marketing, online PR and information architecture. Lindsey is also a qualified adult education lecturer and author. As co-founder of the Access to Broadband Campaign, she has been instrumental in the provision of high-speed internet access to rural areas in the UK. Lindsey is also a past winner of Silicon.com's Outstanding Contribution to UK Technology