All About Website Usability Blog – Holly Phillips

Know thy customer, pt 1
June 2, 2009, 8:49 pm
Filed under: personas, usability basics

So where to start?  The single most important thing you can do to  successfully make a usable site is to understand your customers:  who they are, what they’re trying to do, and why.  This foundation will form the framework to let you make a truly usable site.

There are many ways to find out about your customers.  Your marketing team probably has a good feel for the demographics of your customers, but you need to go beyond that.  In addition to knowing that your customers work in particular industries or companies, you need to know characteristics that can help you understand how they want to use your site.  Things like

  • what are they trying to do at your site?  Do they come to do research well before they’re ready to buy?  To find information on how to use your products in new ways?  To arrange for support or repair? 
  • what do they do if they have a question?  Do they like talking to live people, or prefer to try to solve their problem themselves?
  • what motivates them?  Do they like to be seen as an expert by their peers?  Like to get their work done as quickly as possible?  Are more concerned with having the highest quality than doing something quickly?
  • how do they interact with others they work with?  Do they need to justify a desired purchase to someone else, or are they given full decision authority?

These are just a few of the questions that you should know as you create and improve your site.  If you know that your customers like to be seen as experts, you might emphasize white papers, training, and access to your own technical experts.  If they need to justify their purchases, add easy ways to save or forward relevant information to others.  Are they “people” people?  Add chat and call-me-back.  In other words, frame your site around your customers. 

In my next post I’ll talk more about how to learn about your customers.


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