Financial benefits of usability

Paul Boag

In this article I outline exactly why usability testing is worth the effort and how it can translate into real financial gain.

A large part of my job is improving web site usability. However, convincing companies to spend time and money on usability testing is always an uphill battle. Somehow it is seen as a luxury that can be left out. This couldn’t be further from the truth! Below I outline exactly why usability testing is worth the effort and how it can translate into real financial gain.

Reducing Customer Support

Answering customer queries, taking orders and handling complaints can prove an expensive and resource hungry job. But a well designed, usable web site can significantly reduce this burden. If your web site makes it easy to order online, get questions answered and resolve problems then your users won’t need to phone, fax or email you. This means you can reduce the number of man hours dedicated to customer support and so make significant financial savings.

Design is a matter of opinion

It is amazing how many web development projects stall over disagreements based on personal opinion. Disagreements over colour schemes, the benefits or drawbacks of dropdown menus, the amount of marketing information that can be collected from a website before you begin to put people off. These are the kind of issues that can prevent a site progressing in its development. Everybody seems to have an opinion and everybody thinks they are right. By presenting these issues to a sample of your target audience you can get a truly independent point of view. This often cuts days or even weeks off development time allowing you to become the first to market.

Increased customer satisfaction

We all know that customer satisfaction leads to customer loyalty and that customer loyalty leads to repeat sales. This is especially true on the web where your competition is only a click away. When it is so easy to go elsewhere customers become very fickle and the tiniest thing can make them give up on you and visit your competition. However a site that has been tested with real users, and therefore meets their needs, can give you an edge over your competition. It will ensure your customers to stay with you while encouraging your competition’s customers to make the switch.

Decreased need to publish after-the-fact fixes

Hindsight is a great thing. Once your web site is live and real users are interacting with it on a daily basis it often becomes obvious where the flaws are in your site. However, changes at this late stage can often be too late and expensive. If users find your site difficult to use on their first visit they are extremely unlikely to ever come back again. It is therefore vital that any problems are resolved BEFORE the web site goes live.

Decrease in abandoned shopping baskets

Something like 70% of shopping baskets are abandoned on the web! This equates to millions of pounds of lost revenue. People abandon shopping baskets for lots of different reasons some of which are beyond your control to prevent. However the vast majority are abandoned because the user becomes frustrated with the shopping process. Usability testing can help identify these points of frustration early and help remove them from the shopping flow.

Early identification of problems

Effective usability testing isn’t just something that is carried out at the end of a project. By that point it is almost too late to make changes and correct problems. Usability testing should be an integrated part of the development process happening continually as the site is developed. This enables you to identify problems early and avoid having to make expensive and complex adaptation later in the site’s life. By catching problems early it is possible to correct problems before they have too great an impact to correct .

Removal of unnecessary features

It is often surprising what usability testing turns up. It is not unusual for it to actually demonstrate that your web site is over-engineered. Sometimes you discover that actually your site is too small to bother about a search function or that your target audience isn’t interested in some of the applications you are offering. By carrying out testing you discover this early on in the sites development and can drop these components before time and money is invested in building them.