March 21, 2008

Educator, Test Thyself!

How many of the higher education institutions you know about actually give tests (quizzes, exams) to gauge the ability of your students? Does it also help gauge the effectiveness of your lessons?

My guess is that all of them do. Then why, when it comes to a website, shouldn't we test it to make sure they "learner" (web visitor) is getting the message we want? It's so easy to gauge the effectiveness of your website by just testing it out.
Users love to get some personalized attention, so recruiting a few of them (you don't need any more than 5 or 6 for any given set of tasks) to let you watch them on your site, is pretty easy.
First, define the set of common tasks you think the web visitor should accomplish. Then, sit them down and watch them do them. Don't give them hints, but you should know what scenario you expect them to take..
Money Back Guarantee: you will be amazed at how much you learn from 5 people in a very short period of time. Try it out and let me know.

-John

March 7, 2008

You need fanatics!

Kevin Kelly has it right. "To raise your sales out of the flatline of the long tail you need to connect with your True Fans directly. Another way to state this is, you need to convert a thousand Lesser Fans into a thousand True Fans. "

It seems that, for many, the sale is the end. That just can't work anymore. It has to be the beginning of a great relationship. A "true" fan is one who keeps buying, but more importantly, talks you up among their friends.

March 3, 2008

Did You Hear What I Said?

The web is a quiet thing. Well, with the exception of those super-annoying myspace pages who put gawd-awful music on them so that they load at dial-up speeds. Anyway, it's not about yelling, it's about capturing their attention, not with a gimmick, but with something that satisfies a need.

Despite the terminology commonly used, your user likely doesn't have time to surf. They came to your site for a reason. Finding something that satisfies them quickly is your only chance to keeping them, and maybe even converting them to your customer.

Do  you really know what your user wants? You can. You just have to ask. But first, you need to know who they are. Personas have been used for many years to identify and well, personify, target audiences. Find out what their keywords (as Gerry says, "carewords") are. Find out what images are compelling to them. Do pictures of buildings really convey the image you want? If you are targeting architects, maybe. If you are targeting high school students, not so much.

Build the persona, then ask them directly in your usability tests and interviews. Get to know them. Hobbies, interests, web habits, technology knowledge etc. Then build out your content. with them in mind. Are they idle words on a page to fill space, or do they really address your target persona? Keep testing and watching them. And learn. And apply.