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Usability, whats it all about?

Usability is the measure of a product’s potential to accomplish the goals of the user. Some factors used in determining a products usability are ease-of-use, visual consistency, and a clear, defined process for evolution.” Techtarget Search SOA

This post is about technology and its usability. By that I mean, whatever technology we have, it has to be usable by the very people we hope use it. It is incredibly obvious stuff but it is amazing how many companies get it very wrong.

Take the Jersey Beauty website for example, it has to be usable for women in their thirties. That is our main demographic. We need to understand how this group of people generally uses a website and what they expect to see. To make this work effectively we have to look at all aspects of the site, the design, the functionality, the colours, how the checkouts work and the call to action, to name but a few.

When we launched the Filtrate Eyewear site, initially we copied the US version of the site. Unfortunately this created a disconnect between our existing Jersey Beauty customers and Filtrate. We needed to make the Filtrate site accessible for Jersey customers. We did this by looking at every aspect of the site, the navigation, the design and the customer journey, to make it as user friendly as possible for our existing customer base. Take a look at the sites and see what you think…

When you think about it there are two main groups of people that will use a website, internal users and external users. There are a range of tasks that your internal team will need to regularly carry out. I see them as being:

  1. Customer Service
  2. Telephone ordering
  3. Enquiries
  4. Packing and fulfilment
  5. Reporting
  6. Sales and marketing

All of the above tasks need to happen efficiently and effectively. Your website has to be ‘usable’ for all of this to operate well.

1: Customer Service

The needs of this group will be different for every organisation. It is essential that you understand what the customer service team need to do when answering the phone and using the system. The system needs to be simple enough to allow the team to be as customer-focused as possible.

2: Telephone ordering

Do people need to be trained to use the system or can anyone pick up the phone and take an order? It is important to think about your target market and how they will want to reach you to place an order or ask a question.

3: Tracking your enquiries

Can you track your customer enquiries? Do you need to? Would a service like Zendesk be of use? Zendesk categorises enquiries, tracks e-mails, keeps e-mail trails together, giving you a very simple way of keeping on top of your enquiries. For example, one of the most popular enquiries is “where is my item?”, you can import a pre-written reply into Zendesk which you can then mail merge into your system and it will send it directly to the customer, making things easier and quicker.

4. Packing and fulfilment

The main aim of packing and fulfilment is to get your product out as quickly and as accurately as possible. All your orders need to be correct. At Jersey were losing £2-£3K per month due to packing errors. When we updated our system to include scanning, we stopped losing this money. This was particularly relevant for us as all our products look very similar to each other. Your products may all look very different, but human error is still likely to be costing you a significant amount. Is there a way you can take this margin for error out of the equation? Other good questions to ask are how usable is the system? and is there a level of complexity that doesn’t need to be there?.

5. Reporting

This is a really important area where usability is key. Many businesses do not know what they need to report on and what reports would be most helpful to have at the click of a button. Good questions to ask are:

  • What are your key measurables?
  • How can you ensure that all of your systems talk to each other easily?
  • Can we use technology to make things simpler?

6. Sales and marketing

Can you easily add a new product to your website?  Can you easily check stock levels before adding more products? Can you easily add one off offers and promotions?

If it isn’t super easy then something needs to change!