Matching Web site design to user needs

A ‘bells and whistles' Web site will not attract repeat customers if the site fails to meet the principles of human computer interaction (HCI), says Stockholm-based Internet consultant IconMediaLab.

The company's HCI director Malcolm Otter, said worldwide experience shows most e-commerce Web sites alienate the user through simple mistakes like using corporate instead of everyday lingo, or offering poor online navigation tools that demand the customer recall information, instead of leading them to it.

"Most Web sites used in e-business do not demonstrate good usability; a good site supports users' information needs, has advanced search tools and a clear and consistent design," he said.

"Simple usability mistakes cost money; sites need to accommodate a global and cross-cultural market."

IconMediaLab Australia managing director Peter Malycon, said in the race for companies to "get out there" many Web sites have been hastily done.

He said the most common mistakes in Web site design are information overload, and inconsistent navigation design or online branding.

"Remember the 30-second rule -you must attract the user's attention in that time or you will lose them; 50 per cent of sales can be lost if a user cannot find information," Malycon said.

For every dollar a company spends on its Web site, which is around $40,000, Malycon said companies can expect a 100 per cent return on investment if they meet HCI usability requirements.

IconMediaLab has executed Web usability "health check" programs for the likes of Sony Playstation and HSBC Bank Australia for which the company restructured and rebranded the companies' sites based on research with user focus groups.

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