Ignore Usability and Search Marketing at Your Own Risk

My submission for this month’s “Just Behave” column in Search Engine Land is out. It’s called Finding The Right Balance Between Search Marketing & User Experience.

Yesterday a colleague asked me to find information on software application response times. I responded with some qualifying questions to refine my assistance but what it boiled down was this: the corporate powers wanted to know how much they could fudge things so that an ecommerce software application could roll out into “production” even though it wasn’t ready to effectively respond to customers. Could this be a problem and if yes, who says so?

This week, speaking with someone interested in hiring my services, the conversation was threatened when we began talking how much it would cost. I was asked to sell the site owner on the need for Usability and SEO in my RFP. Their web site is “all FLASH”. He loves FLASH, even though the user data and actual customer feedback indicates visitors are frustrated. He paid “a lot of money for that FLASH developer”, but I have to persuade him to spend money on making the web site usable and marketable?

I brought up the idea of business requirements for the site. It was obvious the company had none and did not understand why I asked about them. As I’m listening, I know this is not going to end up in a project I’ll want to take. For starters, they don’t want to pay for what they need because they haven’t justified that it to themselves. What they may pay for is shortcut and quickie glance reviews that are available for cheap from usability companies. These may point out the top layer of problems, but they don’t come with the solutions or staff to fix them.  In truth, they barely touch the surface of what most professional usability services cover.

Web site and application audits and testing are a weaving of:

# Search engine requirements
# User interface requirements and standards
# Accessibility requirements and laws
# Content requirements
# User testing and research
# Market research
# Functional testing
# Performance testing
# Ongoing testing to unblock conversion jams and to make adjustments based on tracking data
# Requirements gathering and documentation
# Information architecture and/or sitemap review

When someone approaches me and says, “My site is all in FLASH and I want to keep it that way, but I want SEO and usability work done it”, I know they barely have any idea what they got themselves into when they got into the world of online business.

I wrote this, in my article:

How we respond to computer information doesn’t begin and end with a good user interface. How visitors search and find web sites doesn’t end with the marketing process or how search engines present search results.

These are layers in a computer user’s experience process that we’re just beginning to understand.

Software QA Performance Engineers, where I live, earn over $80,000 a year.  This is just one item on that list above.  Usability services are vital and worth every penny your professional usability consultant asks for.

The last straw, for this particular phone call, was being asked to recommend this company’s services to my friends. Why would I recommend a company that doesn’t listen to its own customer feedback and get a web site that works?

If you are a web site owner with a struggling site, my hope is that you get the courage to invest in saving your business.  If you need a referral for companies that are credible and professional, I do this too.  Just drop me a line!

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Read in full – Finding The Right Balance Between Search Marketing & User Experience.

Take it for a Sphinn if you wish to vote for it.