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The Business Impact of Poor Usability

By Klyve Dawson
Posted Friday, November 26, 2004

How does poor usability effect your business?

At the highest level, a substantial measure of web underperformance has an impact in these three areas:

The Website is not enabling as big a cost reduction within your organisation as could be achieved The Website is not generating as much additional revenue or sales leads as is possible The Website is not leveraging your CRM (customer relationship management) and SRM (supplier relationship management) activities as much as it could

In essence - the poor performance of your websites results in an unacceptable ROI and a lack of profit or contribution to your organisation's bottom line.

There are many other ways that poor Websites negatively impact an organisations performance:

There is often considerable investment in building brand image and gaining market positioning. Yet what do you think results from a poor Website experience?

Frankly, the result can be catastrophic - that's the last time you see that visitor. The negative user experience may undermine all your careful brand building.

Employees and the Intranet
We hear client stories continually about poor take-up of the organisational Intranet. It doesn't get enthusiastic support, it gradually falls out of use. Do you wonder why?

Transaction Websites
Whether these are e-commerce sites where you expect purchasing to happen or sites where order checking and process notification takes place, what is the result when the user experience is poor? Visitors stop using your site.

Poor returns on marketing
Many organisations are beginning the move towards integrated channel marketing. They see the benefit of driving prospects to the Web as a cost effective information resource - and also to transact in some instances. But suppose you get the traffic - and then nothing happens! What an incredible waste of marketing effort and resource. The sad thing is that within many organisations the end result is that future Web marketing gets reduced or even dropped, rather than the real issue getting addressed - underperformance of the Website.

With these facts in mind it is imperative that today's business leaders realise the impact that poor usability has on their bottom line.

So what next? How would good usability positively affect an organisation's effectiveness and profitability?

Higher conversion ratio
E-commerce enabled sites spend marketing money generating visitors. It’s imperative that they maximize the customers they get? Typically low conversion rates can see enormous improvements.

Higher average sales
Improved usability, and the implementation of some specific techniques, can result in higher average sales. Given that overheads remain constant, these incremental sales contribute disproportionately to profit.

Greater customer lifetime value
Good usability encourages users to return again and again and develops increased loyalty.

More qualified sales leads
Many business-to-business organisations use the Web to generate sales leads and the more effective sites result in much greater and more qualified enquiry levels.

Competitive advantage
Most users have many choices on who they build relationships and transact with. Excellent usability is now emerging as a key competitive differentiator on the Web.

Happier staff
Good usability on Intranets delivers higher usage, better communication and enthusiastic adoption of internal systems.

Reduced support costs
Well designed sites can provide much improved customer support, resulting in less calls and emails to customer support departments. Result: lower costs.

Improved brand equity
Poor usability creates a negative impact on the brand, move to a positive impact by its improvement.

Favourable reviews
Many sites have received negative reviews in the press? If not yet, their turn could come. A positive review is just like getting free PR.

Maximize your marketing budget
Fortunes are wasted on driving traffic to Websites that don't deliver.

Positive supplier and partner management
Persuading partners and suppliers to transact with you electronically through an extranet can be difficult enough and is even worse when no one likes or can use the interface easily and quickly. Good usability results in a much-improved digital relationship.

In summary, online businesses need to start thinking like a User and provide what's wanted.

About the Author
Klyve Dawson, Managing Director of WhatsWanted, has worked on Internet projects for many years and acted as a consultant to some of the Industry giants; Microsoft, BBC and LookSmart to name just a few. Because of this background he believes that all websites, be they information only or fully e-commerce enabled, should be functional, fast loading, easy to use and exactly what their Users are looking for.


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