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Web sites are for Your Audience, Not for You

It is easy to forget that building a web site is a process of bringing about solutions to your end-user's problems (as in, how can I help my customers find my store? By adding a map to the web site). Many people create their web site with only their own goals in mind. This is a big mistake. People don't care about how neat your site is, or how much Flash you have developed, or the intricate JavaScript that you hand-coded. They are interested in getting their problems solved, and solved quickly. So here are some tips on how you can make sure your site is based on your user's goals.

First, find out what your users goals are. Find a sampling of people who are typical end users and email or call them. Politely ask them the kind of questions that will elicit useful feedback on their goals when they come to your site (for example, what are the three things you want above all when you visit our site?). If you already have a site, ask them what things do they find challenging about the site. This is an ideal chance to identify and fix things as well.

As you actually create (or update) your web site, again keep the end user's goals in mind and make sure that they can get to the information quickly and easily. Nothing is more annoying than finding a site that has exactly what you are after and then be unable to purchase the item! The process of designing a site so it is easy to use is far harder than it looks at first. Usability, as it is called, is an entire realm of study when it comes to web sites. But in general, make sure users can navigate (that is, click around) to the most important features of your site easily. Do you offer a free tutorial on how to use your shareware software? Make sure you have a link to it on your navigation bar or at least prominently displayed on the home page. A pleasing design can go hand in hand with usability. However, it you are not a whiz at web design, then don't fret. A simple design that lets users navigate to their intended goal is far more preferable to a gorgeous site that people can't navigate. So make it look as attractive as possible but usability should always come first. And remember, the site is for your audience.

not for you.


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