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VIII.4 July 2001
Page: 4
Digital Citation


Steven Pemberton

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Forrester Research did some great work a year or so back that I love to repeatedly quote. It asked the question: Why do people go back to particular Web sites rather than other ones that apparently offer the same services? (You might like to pause a moment and think what your reasons are. Is it because the site has a really good splash screen? No I didn't think so either. How about really a neat Flash intro? You hate that too? OK. Read on.)

They found out that there were only four really important reasons:

  1. Good content. Yay! Users aren't as stupid as some people would like to make out. They really are there for the real stuff.
  2. Usability. Yay! There's a business model for Usability! We were right all along!
  3. Fast download time.
  4. The site is frequently updated.

All other reasons were noise (scoring 14 percent or less) compared with these four (which scored respectively 75 percent, 67 percent, 58 percent, 54 percent).

In fact, if you classify Fast Download Time as Usability, and Frequently Updated as Content, it leaves us with just two reasons: Good Fresh Content and Responsive Usability.

Now, I don't know if you've noticed, but most Web sites are a usability mess! And Jakob Nielsen has calculated that if you take all the usability experts in the world, and all the Web sites, we will only have one hour available per expert per Web site. And the number of Web sites is increasing exponentially! Soon it will be half an hour!

If you were at this year's CHI conference, you will have heard Gregg Vanderheiden's great closing plenary on Universal Usability. His message was: If you design products for accessibility, they will be better products for the fully-abled too, and sell better as a result.

Well, know what? If you design your Web site for accessibility, it becomes more usable too. And that means according to Forrester's Research you have more chance of keeping your users. Pass it on. And while you are passing it on, pass on Wendy Chisholm, Gregg Vanderheiden and Ian Jacobs' Web Accessibility Guidelines from this issue, so they'll know how to do it.

Steven Pemberton

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©2001 ACM  1072-5220/01/0700  $5.00

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