Guest blogger Matthew Sloan, a consultant with the Capgemini UK MSS practice writes about how transaction websites should focus on user experience and not make him think. Some of his inspiration comes from Steve Krug’s engaging book ‘Don’t make me think!’.

A person with average experience of usability should be able to use your website for its intended purpose and not get frustrated quickly. If they get frustrated they’ll probably leave irrespective of how visually stimulating or technologically advanced your site may be. By our nature we’re creatures of habit so I’ll now explore my own browsing habits and we’ll see how much you can learn from and relate to these.
The first point to make is that much of my web usage is borne from the motivation to save time.
When I look at a website for the first time, I want it to be self-evident, obvious and self-explanatory. It should, at a minimum, be aesthetically appealing on the eye. I should be able to ‘get it’ – learn quickly what the website is about, whether it can help me and understand how to use it without the need for any further explanation. As I browse I’ll subconsciously create a mental map of the website, learning where things are should I need them again – so keep it logical and don’t change its presentation too much as I may return and don’t want to find myself second guessing if the layout is different.
Eliminate as much ‘waste’ from my view as possible as I don’t have the time for unnecessary ‘small talk’. I’ll scan through your pages but not read them word for word. If I can’t work your site out or keep ‘moving’ through the transaction, I may ‘muddle through’ for a short period of time or use the search function or maybe even quickly browse the FAQs. Should I wish to purchase something I want to see a secure https and a padlock demonstrating that your site is. At the bare minimum, if I get lost I want to be able to go back to the homepage as quickly as possible (usually by clicking on your logo on the top left corner). However, most likely, I’ll probably go elsewhere because I can, at no further cost to myself other than time.
On the topic of time – unlike in a ‘physical store’ – I can quickly penalise your site and click ‘back’ on my browser and be elsewhere in a matter of seconds. Even seemingly minor things that are unclear or ambiguous will lead me astray and I’ll leave. I may then spread this experience of your site – probably to my friends – depending on how annoyed I got. So how do you test and improve your website’s user experience? How can you understand more about the journey customers take and the pain points where they leave?
Usability Testing is one such useful method to gather accurate Customer Insight – which is a focus within Capgemini’s Customer Experience Transformation methodology, therefore something we’re seeing more and more of with our clients. Take the example of a recent project where Capgemini worked with a large central government department client. Using our customer journey mapping techniques, we built design principles based around streamlining and improving customer experience and then commissioned a series of usability testing sessions including the use of cutting edge technologies like eye tracking.
Earlier this month Marketing Week reported about eye tracking technology and its ability to reveal a customer’s unconscious viewing of a website and what they understand from it. On our projects, eye tracking helped refine principles to ensure that the redesigned website layouts would be customer-friendly, clear and usable, without degrading the customer’s confidence in their secure transaction.
The dramatic improvement from gaining customer insight through in-depth usability testing showed that users have enough on their minds and don’t need websites to add to this – particularly with transactions where users are generally task focused.
Therefore my tip: Website and content designers should KISS (keep it simple stupid).