You Are Not The Typical User
This is the first of a series of posts on Web Usability that I will be writing in the coming months. If you are involved in the design or development of a website in any capacity, the first thing you should acknowledge and embrace is that you are not the typical user.
Developers, designers, marketing managers, and business owners have the tendency of making web design decisions based on their own taste and browsing style. That is a natural approach.
However, there are two problems: the first one is that you want your website to be impressive, so you come up with lots of ideas about the layout, colors, cool functionality, and fancy words that will make the website original and great... for you. The second problem is that you are an insider -- you know too much about the company, and it's easy to think that everybody understands about your products, services, acronyms, and technical terms. And because of that you can end with a website that works well for you but not for the real audience.
What can you do?
The answer is testing. You don't need to spend a lot of money or make it super scientific. One easy way is to find people that have absolutely no interest in your project, like your neighbor who doesn't understand what your company do, or your aunt. If they look at your website and they don't get it you've got a sign that it is not evident enough.
Ask questions about what your test subjects think about your website and then listen to what they say. Don't be defensive or try to explain. Ask them to perform some simple task like finding out who is the operations manager, how long has the company been in business or what is the phone number of the main office, and then observe if the process is smooth or cumbersome.