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Improving Your Website's Usability

Does it flow? Is it up to date? Can it be easily navigated?

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By Marty McGhie

Because the majority will quickly browse through your site, it’s critical that the information you wish to get to your customers be placed in an obvious, easy-to-reach spot on the site. For example, when skimming a page, most of us are too lazy to use the scroll bar to get to the bottom section of the page that isn’t showing up on the monitor. Make sure that the most important information and links to the next sections of your website are placed on the upper part of the page ("above the fold," to use newspaper lingo), clearly visible to your users.

Another helpful navigation device is a site map. In our industry, Web users often will be looking for something specific, perhaps product information, maybe technical help, or a sales contact. Don’t make them navigate all over the place to find what they are looking for. Rather, provide an accurate site map that enables them to get where they want to go as quickly as they can. Once they arrive, they can then get the information they seek as well as a few hints of some other areas on your site that might be worth visiting. Clean, crisp navigation through your website will make the Web visit by your customer a good experience and will invite them to return again soon.

Keep it fresh
Consider the relevance of your website’s content: Is it up-to-date with the latest information about your company? Do you have new equipment that should be profiled or new product lines to be advertised? Even worse, is some of the information on your website obsolete?

An excellent way to determine whether or not your content is fresh is to review your website as if you are the customer, not as an owner or manager of the company. What is most important to you may not be the most important information to your customer. As you review your website, keep asking yourself: What would be the most relevant and useful information to your customer?

Looking through the eyes of your customer will give you a different but important perspective on what your website has to offer. Good feedback on how your site is being utilized by visitors can be accomplished by reviewing your server logs on a regular basis. Your Web log information will tell you which pages are visited most frequently, which pages are exited, how long your visitors stay on each page, and other significant information. This data can be critical in determining the usefulness of various parts of your website.

The road ahead
These steps should assist you in evaluating your current website’s effectiveness. If you make it a regular practice to review your site from a critical and objective point of view, you’ll make continual improvements that will assist your customers and ultimately continue to build your business.

Marty McGhie ( is VP finance/operations of Ferrari Color, a digital-imaging center with Salt Lake City, San Francisco, and Sacramento locations.