Maximize your return on investment with website usability studies

July 1, 2011
A successful website takes AIM when it Attracts, Impresses, and Motivates website visitors to take one or more desirable actions.

Daniel A. "Danny" Bobrow, MBA

For more on this topic, go to and search using the following key words: website usability studies, marketing, focus group, data, Daniel A. “Danny” Bobrow.

A successful website takes AIM when it Attracts, Impresses, and Motivates website visitors to take one or more desirable actions. There are many ways to build and maintain a website so it attracts the right visitors in sufficient volume (e.g., on-site keyword optimization, link building, social media, traditional marketing, direct mail). Once you have done this, you might say that your website gets an “A” for being able to attract. But it still needs an “I” and an “M”!

Creating a Web presence that attracts visitors and is impressive and motivational requires one to think from the perspective of the website visitor. While there is no shortage of software and consulting services* to assist with such analysis, the truly important data can and should be collected by employing low-tech — and in some cases — no-tech observation methods.

Website usability is the extent to which a visitor to your website has a positive experience with its esthetics and function (also called look and feel), while being consistent with the website owner’s objectives.

What to learn

You first want to crystallize in your mind exactly what you want your website to do for you. You may, for instance, want visitors to immediately recognize that your practice is progressive and committed to delivering comprehensive oral-systemic health and wellness care. In addition, you want visitors to either call your office to schedule an appointment or download a white paper on the important links between oral and overall health. Next, you will develop a series of questions to ask your focus group. (Actually, a focus group consists of an assembled number of people being asked to evaluate a given offering. In this case, you will want to work with one subject at a time.)

Who to ask and how to observe

If you have an Internet-ready computer, you can ask patients if they would mind taking a few moments to share their impressions of your website. You hope that the people you select are willing to be direct and honest and not spare your feelings. Ideally, you want subjects to evaluate your website who are not yet patients because, presumably, you want your website to primarily “play to” prospective, and not current patients. You may want to offer your subjects an expression of your appreciation (e.g., free whitening, dinner, movie tickets). The insights you can acquire are well worth the investment.

Thanks to online collaboration services such as GoToMeeting, you can even solicit feedback from people who live across the country. Simply invite them to a meeting, then give them access to, and control of, your screen that is logged into your website. Then click the Record button.

Recording is a helpful way to ensure that you do not miss anything during your real-time observations. If you do not have access to such a tool, you will need to work with local subjects and have a notepad and stopwatch handy.

What to ask

Before asking any questions, simply observe where the people look and what they do. Log out of your website, and ask subjects what they remember most about the site. Make note of all responses or transcribe the recorded session later. Next, ask subjects about their general impression of your website. Ask them to rank in order a list such as the following:

  • Friendly
  • High Tech
  • High Value
  • Responsive
  • Gentle
  • Inviting
  • Clean
  • Exclusive
  • Professional

Next, ask the subjects to locate your telephone number, special offer, form to request a white paper or appointment, and any other desirable actions. Ideally, at least 10 subjects who are demographically consistent with your target audience will participate in the study.

Your website report card

Two of the more common mistakes website designers commit are including too much information and attempting to “connect” with all visitors. As with most things in life, it always pays to keep it simple (and focused).

A majority of your subjects should evaluate your website in a manner that is consistent with your desired image. It should not take more than 30 seconds for subjects to identify the three website elements you most want visitors to notice. It also pays to perform such studies whenever there is a major revision to your website.

* To find these, simply Google “website usability.”

Daniel A. “Danny” Bobrow, MBA, is president of AIM Dental Marketing (formerly American Dental Marketing). He is also executive director of Climb For A Cause and the Smile Tree. Reach him at (800) 723-6523 or [email protected].

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