The Sound of One Mouse Clicking

How do you measure your site's success?

"You count the number of hits on your site, of course," is probably the most obvious answer. A user's satisfaction with their experience, however, is a far better measure of success than the number of times they click on a site, according to conference speakers at Seybold's Web Publishing Conference "Measuring Success: How do you measure success of design on the Internet?"

Speaker Stephen Whaley of Digimarc Embedding Institute presented statistics illustrating that there are more than 2.1 billion unique Web pages currently on the Internet, and more than two-thirds of people surfing those pages are dissatisfied. Fellow conference speaker Alistair Williamson of WebCriteria outlined users' top frustrations with Web sites as "difficult navigation," "slow downloading," and "couldn't find information." He based his comments on a recent study by the Boston Consulting Group.

Williamson pointed to task time and effort as two of the key factors in a Web site's success. Companies should note the time it takes to complete key tasks on their Web site, and compare that time regularly against their competitors' times. He advised keeping the time it takes to register on a site to 150 seconds, with four or fewer questions. It is also important to evaluate the effort involved in navigating a Web site, using criteria such as the number of choices offered on the site; the level of distractions; the number of pages; and the amount of reading, scrolling, navigating, and entering information that are required.

User feedback is another useful way to measure a Web site's success, though most feedback systems don't work, according to conference speaker Rand Nickerson of OpinionLab. He advised that feedback systems should be easy for the user and minimize the impact of the user's visit to the site. Web sites should require only a click of the mouse to register, rather than an e-mail to the Web master, and leave the user on the same page they are viewing. Another problem is that data from feedback systems is commonly collected in a manner that isn't useful to the sites' designers, marketing analysts, and producers, he said. OpinionLab offers a free feedback system for download on their Web site as well as several reporting options, some of which are free.

Whaley addressed new technologies designed to decrease the time and effort it takes for people to find what they're looking for on the Web. Digimarc offers digital watermarking technology that enables a user to hold up a magazine page to a Web camera and go directly to a specific Web page -- no typing is necessary. Bar-code technology, currently in development, will also allow a reader to go directly from a print page to a Web site, therefore presumably decreasing the time and energy users will have to expend trying to find what they want.

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