I'm working on web usability studies for two clients right now, and here's what I've learned: it all comes down to asking two questions about every page on your site:
- What one thing do you want the visitor to do on this page?
- How do you facilitate that action in as few steps as possible?
Maybe you want them to make a purchase. Maybe fill out a form. Maybe send you an e-mail. Whatever it is, everything else on the page should be designed to encourage that action.
Why only one action? Well, consider these stats from usability guru Jakob Nielsen: when visiting a new site, users spend an average of only 30 seconds on the homepage and less than 2 minutes on the entire site before leaving. For sites they return to, their stay isn’t much longer—just 4 minutes on average. That means you need to give people the chance to get on, get done, and move on. The easier you make that, the more likely it is that they'll return.