Findability: Beyond SEO

In 2005 information architect Peter Morville (findability.org) coined a term to describe the perfect fusion of all the elements of website development that create an excellent user experience: findability.  Author and teacher Aarron Walter (aarronwalter.com) provides what is – in my opinion – the best primer on findability, “Building Findable Websites” (Published by New Riders).  (Walter uses an allegory to discuss findability at http://www.alistapart.com/articles/findabilityorphan/. This is a fun and educational read.)

So what does findability look like?  As Walter points out in his article, findability is often confused for SEO. SEO is an external consideration, however.  It’s main concern is getting traffic to a website.  Once it’s done that job, SEO is pretty much out of the loop.  SEO is certainly a consideration in findability, but it’s not the only consideration.  Figure 1 highlights the issues impacting your website’s findability.

Figure 1: Factors in Findability

Figure 1: Factors in Findability

While this list of findability factors is not exhaustive, it is a good place to start in evaluating the findability of your website.

Usability.  Have you done a usability test on your website?  You don’t need to pay thousands of dollars to have a professional usability expert come and conduct one for you. Do one yourself. Find a couple people not familiar with your website and pay them $20 to spend 30 minutes with you as you watch them use your website. You can find a sample usability test at http://sensible.com.

Credibility.  Is the content on your website accurate? Authoritative? Relevant? If you sell goods online, is your online store free of marketing hype, flashing “BUY ME” buttons, etc?  Your website’s credibility is directly related to the trust and confidence it builds in users. Trust and confidence determine whether users will respond to your calls to action.

Desirability.  There are two considerations in desirability: 1) does your website’s look and feel promote a good user experience?  2) Does the content help users solve a problem? If a website’s design adds “noise” to the user experience due to its artsiness (hmm… maybe I made that word up), desirability is diminished.  Likewise, too much “happy talk” that doesn’t help users get something done diminishes desirability.

Accessibility.  Can the blind or severely sight-impaired use your website? Is it accessible to people with movement disabilities?  Accessibility is taking center stage more and more as new technologies are putting the Web in the hands of disabled users.  Some states have passed legislation establishing accessibility standards.

Information Architecture.  Is the information on your website organized in a logical way?  Is the navigation clear, intuitive? Does your site provide a sitemap and search feature to help users find what they want?

SEO.  Can people find you on the search engines?  Has your website been optimized as much as possible for the search engines so your site is easily indexed?  Along with SEO, does your site provide ways for users to share information with others?

If you want some help building findability into your website, contact me at http://imaginethatcreative.net.

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