Functional doesn’t mean it’s working

Robert Dwek’s article “Whatever way you phrase it, a website’s only useful if it works” (MW last week) was excellent and absolutely on the money in several areas. However, there were one or two places where I thought it might be potentially misleading.

E-metrics (or Web analytics) is only part of a successful website solution. It should not be confused with usability, as your article implies: the two, although interlinked, are very different. For retailers, e-metrics are online marketers’ equivalent of their offline counterparts’ EPOS data. They let companies see what their online customers bought, where they arrived, how long they stayed, where they left, and so forth. But crucially e-metrics cannot tell a marketer why

they came, left, decided to buy, decided not to buy, liked the site, or worst of all, won’t be coming back. It is this meaningful insight that e-metrics cannot deliver and where usability potentially completes the picture… or does it?

Usability is about analysing the degree to which users are able to undertake tasks on the site. It is very important but, even combined with e-metrics, it is not enough. What is required is the contextual exploration of a site from a user-focused perspective. Customer experience analysis builds on traditional usability methods, but probes website users around important issues such as perceptions, motivations, expectations, behaviours and satisfaction with the site experience. In other words, the why of websites needs to encompass usefulness and persuasiveness as well as usability.

Your article was absolutely right about visual aids. How you replay this customer insight back to the client in a highly visual and meaningful way is vitally important to convincing senior management how their site’s true potential can be realised. Showing them a video of a user swearing while trying to put their telephone number into a form is worth a dozen pages on a usability report!

I suppose that what I am saying is that there are plenty of websites out there that work, but just because they work it doesn’t mean that they are successful in terms of meeting business objectives. Ultimately, to be a successful business online, a company needs a website that effectively combines consumer wants with the needs of the business. This requires a more holistic approach than just e-metrics and usability can deliver.

Matthew Pitt

Managing partner

Generator Consulting

London SW1

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