Driving a New Car, & Website Usability

    Ever gotten into someone else’s car, thinking it should be easy to drive, only to be baffled and lost by the controls? I spent an entire day driving three different cars with about a two hour drive each. Not by choice, not by plan. One of our cars, the one I don’t drive, was noticeably leaking something in the morning – so I went to take it in. But all the maintenance records were only available at the dealer an hour away, and local repair shops wanted an arm and a leg just to inspect the car (with no maintenance records). So I drove to the dealer. Who wanted a day to inspect. And gave me a loaner. Long story short, I spent the day in three different Japanese cars – all of which had very different dashboards and locations for everything from heating/cooling dials and on buttons to radio to vents to seat controls to wipers to spedometer. My entire day was spent in driving confusion. As soon as I’d get used to one car, I’d have to change to another.

    Now, let’s parallel that experience – ever been on a website that totally confused you on navigation?

    Website planning and information architecture has to take all of this into account – how to appease visitor expectations and easy navigation – what we call the user journey – while also channeling a freshness of your unique, differentiated brand in a web design. It’s about finding that balance and making visitors happy, giving them what they want in terms of accessible information and a good user experience. And by the way often that information should be driven by good keyword research and SEO planning!

    Sometimes jumping into a new car can be a fun driving experience, with pleasurable discovery of the nobs and accessories. I think of the day I got to drive a rental Mustang. Sometimes we’re pushed by immediate need for get-in-and-get-out utilization. Which is your website? Or more importantly, which are your site visitors looking for?

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to figure out this remote for a new TV and cable…