In 2005 information architect Peter Morville (findability.org) coined a term to describe the perfect fusion of all the elements of website development that create an excellent user experience: findability.
So what does findability look like? First, findability is not search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is mostly an external consideration. It’s main goal is getting traffic to a website. Once it’s done that job, SEO is pretty much out of the loop. SEO is part of findability, but it’s a small part.
While this list is not exhaustive, it is a good place to start in evaluating the findability of your website.
Usability. Conduct a usability test on your website. You don’t need to pay thousands of dollars to have a professional usability expert come and conduct one for you. Do one yourself. Find a couple people not familiar with your business or website and pay them $20 to spend 30 minutes with you as you watch them use your website. You can find a sample usability test at http://sensible.com.
Credibility. Content matters most on your site. Is your content authoritative? Relevant? If you sell goods online, is your online store free of marketing hype, flashing “BUY ME” buttons, etc? Your credibility is directly related to the trust and confidence it builds in customers.
Desirability. There are two considerations in desirability: 1) does your website’s look and feel promote a good user experience? 2) Does the content help users solve a problem? If a website’s design adds “noise” to the user experience desirability is diminished. Too much “happy talk” – words that don’t answer the user’s questions – also diminishes desirability.
Accessibility. Can the blind or severely sight-impaired use your website? Is it accessible to people with movement disabilities? Accessibility is taking center stage more and more as new technologies are putting the Web in the hands of disabled users. Some states have passed legislation establishing accessibility standards.
Information Architecture. Is the information on your website organized in a logical way? Is the navigation clear, intuitive? Does your site provide a sitemap and search feature to help users find what they want?
SEO. Can people find you on the search engines? Has your website been optimized as much as possible for the search engines so your site is easily indexed? Along with SEO, does your site provide ways for users to share information with others?
There’s a lot to consider in website findability. Take it slow. Commit to making small, but on-going improvements to your site and you’ll find traffic increasing and more customers engaging your business.