Dear website, please tell me …

A surprising number of websites withhold information from users that would make them so much easier to use. And a website that’s easy to use is surely what helps rather than hinders a business.

The most obvious information that websites tend to withhold is price, particularly when they’re offering services. I’ve been guilty of this myself and I’m working on it. The problem is that it depends on people’s budgets, prices can be negotiated, and so on. Yet there’s so much evidence that people are reassured by knowing what they may be in for, right away.

Remember how intimidating it is to walk into a shop where there are no prices on display. If you like something, you have to be brave and ask, then find an excuse that really means “I can’t afford it”. So, dear website, if you possibly can, put a price on what you offer. Your users will be grateful and more likely to engage with you.

Then there are small details that some websites fail to tell you about, such as what’s required in a password. If you want people to include squiggles and capitals in their passwords and make them a certain length, please say so straight away. Don’t wait till they’ve had a go and then tick them off for not knowing what they should have done. Are you trying to annoy your users and waste their time?

Contact details are some of the most important bits of information a website provides, but you don’t always make it easy. You tend to just put up a contact form. If, like me, a user loathes contact forms, he or she may give up there and then. (I’ve written a whole separate post about contact forms.) But with a bit more thought and effort, you can provide alternatives – phone number, email address, social media profiles – so the user can choose what suits them.

Many developers seem to avoid placing links in the body of the text (do you think it’s untidy?), which is where I think some of them should be. So as soon as you suggest the user do something, there should be the link that enables them to do it.

A simple example I came across this week, way down the page, was:

“Please get in contact so we can arrange a time to chat.”

How? Where? There was no link in sight. You’re forcing the user to go looking for it, rather than providing it right there.

In my view, it should be

Please get in contact so we can arrange a time to chat.

These details involve more thought and work for whoever builds the website, but they all contribute to making a website more usable and, I believe, more effective.

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