My presentation at Chicago SES 2008 was a bit awkward due to the fact that I chose a different font style, that when loaded on a different computer for our panel, did not render properly. What appeared were a series of empty blue boxes.
I know my stuff, but I didn’t feel in sync with my brain and felt many points I wanted to make were missed. In addition to that, we were a panel of 5 and limited to 8-10 minutes. That forces us to be rushed and graze a topic rather than delve into it.
I spoke on the panel for “SEO and Usability: Two Wins for the Price of One”. It’s a traditional topic these days for Search Engine Strategies conferences. The title for my talk was Creating Momentum With Organic SEO and Persuasive Usability Heuristics. I wanted to describe how to optimize the relationship between Findability (Search) and Engagability (Persuasive Design). In addition, I like to give attendees something to do when they leave a conference; a take-away of actions they can apply to their sites that will make a difference and illustrate how smoothly organic seo and user experience design work together.
Before beginning any web design or redesign, in addition to determining requirements, I suggest creating a list of heuristics that should be followed and tested to be sure they are met in the same way that your requirements should be. Heuristics are guidelines and checkpoints based on the results of usability and Human Factors research and findings. Jacob Nielsen has gathered up thousands of heuristics for Internet related designs. For my talk, I focused on a handful because these are vital to conversions:
Validation (of Findability)
Value Proposition (What’s in it for your site visitors?)
Why Create Momentum?
Again, the answer is conversions. A dead homepage is a quiet space that visitors wander through but don’t interact with. Without momentum, there is no incentive to do anything or trust the content. Momentum is…
Always moving forward towards selling, informing, teaching, information, proof of claims and expertise, sales, subscriptions, registrations, phone calls, sales leads forms, email contact, filling out forms, inserting images, making comments, subscribing to feeds, looking up Twitter accounts, “friending” in social sites, gifting your friends’ Wishlists, and all the zillions of TASKS you want your web site visitors to do.
From a search result, most visitors land on a site’s homepage first. If they’re not greeted properly and funneled inside, very lfew actions are taken. The long term hazard of weak engagement is no word of mouth marketing or return visits.
Who Where What
I’ve found from working with clients that the fastest route to increased desired conversions is to answer 6 questions right away, on the homepage. Who, Where, What, Why, When and How are all key questions your visitors have. SEO efforts have brought your site to the top of search engine results. For SEO efforts to have any affect, user experience design must be supportive and hold interest so that not only tasks are completed, but your web site will be remembered and referred to.
In the rest of the brief presentation, there are 3 slides focused on Who, Where and What only. They offer ideas on how to answer these critical questions within your content, tagline, headlines, navigation link labels and call to action prompts. It’s NOT about “keyword stuffing”! This is a natural approach. By offering guidance within text, you’re not only answering questions, but you’re indicating that you’re focused on your site visitor. You’re attentive to their needs.
For competitive industries, the site that provides proof of expertise will stand out. Don’t claim to be an expert on any topic when you’re an observer. What do you provide that will satisfy and meet your visitors’ needs, wants, desires, wishes and budget now? And be honest. Bad customer service news travels fast.
Web site owners aren’t always sure their web sites are working to their specifications. Of course, if there are no specifications drawn up in the beginning, then there will be issues. When hiring SEO’s to market your web site, ask them if they include usability heuristic evaluations. If they don’t, your success is likely short-term rather than long-term. A skilled usability practitioner can show you where the disconnect between findability and persuasion occur, and more importantly for your success, help you repair the problems or refer you to people who can.