Just back late last night from Gerry McGovern's 3rd annual meeting for Customer Carewords partners, this year in Belfast.
The partners are an international group. People attended from 8 countries: Canada, Denmark, Holland, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, United Kingdom, and United States.
While my notes are still fresh to mind, here are some highlights we shared from our experiences this year working with universities, corporations, and government agencies to improve their websites.
- People who are responsible for websites are often ashamed or bored by the "top tasks" that people who use websites want to do. A "top task" on Intranets, for instance, is often "finding people" within the organization. At many sites, that isn't easy. But making it easy isn't new or exciting. Too often it doesn't get fixed.
- People who are aware of "pain points" on a website often don't know which ones to fix first. One benefit of Carewords research is the identification of top tasks so that web leaders can first fix the ones that are most important to people who use the site. Priority is set based on fact, not opinion.
- Primary pain points most often result from navigation, search, and out-of-date content.
Task Performance Index
- Our Task Performance research measures the time it takes people to complete key tasks and gives each one a TPI or Task Performance Index ranking.
- Most tasks we measured over the past year were in fact done well (61 percent), many were not done quite so well (32 percent) and some were disasters (7 percent.)
- Fixing the disasters first becomes the key goal.
- We give a person 6 minutes to complete a task. If it can't be done by then, it likely can't be done at all.
The Value of Search
- Checking for the Top 100 search terms used on a website can also help pinpoint what's most important to people who use the site. Be sure to look back for 12 months so that seasonal variations don't skew the results.
- Check for variations in the words people use to search for the same thing and total the similar items. One of my favorite combinations is "premed" and "pre-med" and "premedicine" for future students trying to learn more about medical school.
- Website usability is improved by a simple A to Z site map that new visitors and members of your organization can easily find and check. Don't hide the site map.
- Almost all our usability testing is now being done remotely. We watch people from afar while they work on a computer. The people we are watching are more relaxed. The client cost is lower.
That's a snapshot of what we've learned since our 2008 meeting. Carewords research has been ongoing for about 15 years now. Sharing the results from new clients improves the process and expands everyone's knowledge. Well worth the trip over the Atlantic.
Task Completion is #1
What's been constant over the years is the emphasis that people place on task completion. That's the most important lesson from our work. We don't expect it to change.
If you're at a college or university and don't think your website is performing as well as it might, I'll be happy to explore Carewords options with you. Starting with an email to firstname.lastname@example.org is usually easiest.
If you're at a corporation or government agency, check the contact information for other partners.
That's all for now.