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Marketing, Web Usability and Honolulu Airport

By Barry Harrison
Posted Monday, November 29, 2004

Forgetting the airport for a moment, you may ask: What does marketing have to do with web usability?" The answer is: "Everything!" Your marketing dollars are wasted if visitors arrive at your site and it's not easy for them to use.


Your business has the power to create a compelling online environment. You control all the information and how it's presented. But from the moment a visitor enters your site, he or she is in control. So make it easy for them. Help them accomplish their goals. That's how you'll generate a return on your investment.


I was thinking about usability at the very end of my vacation -- changing planes in Honolulu. It was a frustrating experience that I'm sure most of you can relate to. Arriving from the Interislands Terminal, our next flight departed from gate 69 in the Main Terminal. I asked a security guard how to get there. "You can take the Wikki-Wikki (tram), which is about 15 minutes, or walk-- in about 10." We opted to walk.

Everything started out OK. We rolled our luggage past a beautiful garden and some modern sculpture. We kept walking...and rolling. We noticed some confusing signage: Were we supposed to go up to the gate or stay on the same level? We went up. Wrong, so back down. To the left...great...a map of the airport! But no indication of "You Are Here," so we were still lost. We walked halfway back to the first terminal before we finally found the correct path and eventually, gate 69.


What does all that have to do with web usability? From the point of view of a visitor, many websites suffer from the same problems as Honolulu airport ( Confusing navigation, too many options, too difficult to find what you're looking for. We've all visited sites like that, and experienced the frustration they cause.

At the airport, visitors don't really have a choice. They ask for help. They make do. But if their experience is like mine, they'll wish they could click to another airport ( So remember, next time you think about web marketing, think about usability.


If you're interested in learning more, pick up a copy of Steve Krug's Don't Make Me Think ( It is simply the best book on web usability I've ever seen. If you have usability concerns about your own site, please contact us for a usability review.

About the Author
Barry Harrison and Jim Grady are the co-authors of REDiTIPS. REDiTIPS is a free monthly newsletter that offers simple techniques to market your Web site and grow your business. We provide practical, low-cost ideas to help you promote your small business and reach new potential customers.


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