Gomez Executive Offers Top Three Online Retail Usability Best Practices
Usability issues aren't always apparent to the retailer operating a Web
site. Consumers bring all levels of skill and knowledge to the sites
they visit, and access them with different browsers and operating
systems. As a result, an online retailer runs the risk of alienating a
significant number of users if he or she is not aware of all of the
potential obstacles to successful site navigation.
To help online retailers assess their sites' usability, David Flinn, director of professional services at Gomez Inc.,
a Lexington, Mass.-based experience management solutions provider,
offered the following online retail usability best practices during the
Internet Retailer Web Design '08 Conference at the InterContinental
Hotel in Miami last week.
1. Benchmark to know your strengths and weaknesses. Flinn said
it is important to set a competitive (or comparative) usability
baseline for your site that focuses on availability, responsiveness and
consistency. In addition, he stressed the importance of sharing metrics
aggressively across the entire organization and the need to have "great
"They add relevance to what you are doing and allow you to justify your investment [in usability tools]," he said.
2. Know your customers. "You need to know what your customers are doing online, so you can match your technology to their needs," Flinn said.
To get to know your customers, he recommended turning to "Web
analytics packages and other sources for in-depth demographics," adding
that it's also a good idea to model performance in a way that resembles
In general, he said, "you should make the end-user the center of every activity."
3. Test, test and test. "The modern online store environment is
extremely complex," Flinn said. "As a result, I really believe in
testing and monitoring your entire system."
He added that it's important to identify a battery of tests
that will monitor all critical application elements. And, he said, it's
important to remember that changes -- and surprises -- happen all the
time, "so always evolve your monitoring strategy."