Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Can small business use your site?

Internet “usabilty” expert Jakob Nielsen is puzzled.

In an e-mail newsletter article today, he writes about business to business websites – and why they're so hard to use.

“User testing shows that business-to-business websites have substantially lower usability than mainstream consumer sites,” says Nielsen. “If they want to convert more prospects into leads, B2B sites should follow more guidelines and make it easier for prospects to research their offerings.”

Nielsen says many B2B sites are “stuck in the 1990s” in their attitude to the user experience. They emphasize internally focused design and fail to answer customers' main questions.

“These sites haven't realized that the Web has reversed the company-customer relationship,” says Nielsen. “Most online interactions are demand-driven: you either give people what they want or watch as they abandon your site for the competition's.”

In Nielsen’s user tests, B2B sites earned a mere 58% success rate (measured as the percentage of that time users accomplished their tasks on a site). Mainstream websites had a success rate of 66%.

Here’s the puzzle. “Considering that there's immensely more money at stake for B2B than for business-to-consumer," says Nielsen, "it's astounding that B2B sites offer a much worse user experience.”

For pete's sake, put the customer first.

For Nielsen's full details, click here.

Interested in usability issues? Canada now has its own usability blogger: Dmitry Buterin of Bonasource. He's actually pretty good (so you'd better hope he doesn't find your site). Click here for his blog, Blinking VCR.

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