10 MAY 2010 1
We recently launched a brand new website for Roulston's Pharmacy, and it's a perfect example of the different ways you can make your customers' lives easier with a website. You've probably heard how important usability is when it comes to web design, but let's talk about what that exactly means in real world examples.
You've got your obvious usability stuff: make sure that the text is legible and your navigation uses standard conventions for websites (i.e. don't call your home button "Journey"), and all the other "common sense" things you want to put into a new website design... but taking things to the next level requires a bit more thought.
Start by figuring out what most of your customers are going to be coming to your website for. In Roulston's case, one of the primary reasons is to find out location information (hours, contact details and so on). So, to meet this need, we placed a prominent AJAX powered pop-up on the right side of the header.
With this feature, the visitor can easily and quickly find all the important information about a specific location without reloading the page or having to navigate around the site searching for they store they are looking for. This is definitely a good thing, but we wanted to take things a step further with this particular section of the site. It's often possible to make very small functionality changes to improve usability that your visitors might not even notice, which may sound counter-intuitive, but in actuality that's exactly what you are trying to do. You don't want a site visitor to notice things, everything should just "work"... if your user has to stop and think about what they have to do next, then it's almost guaranteed that some of them won't be able to figure out the next step and will become frustrated and leave.
Going back to the Roulston's site, we took this relatively simple piece of functionality and tied it in throughout the site. For starters, it remembers your location, so if you visit the site at a later date you will have the previously selected location already displaying. This also ties into any part of the site that needs location-driven input from the user. If you click on the refill prescription link, the currently selected location will already be auto-populated into the form. This can be changed if needed, but it saves the visitor from telling us information that we've already asked them for (from their location selection earlier).
Remember, usability doesn't have to extremely noticeable -- the best examples of good usability aren't even noticed, because they just work!