Website User Types
By: Thomas Young, MBA
A wide variety of users can be found surfing Websites. These user types are easily identified in usability testing. Success on the Web comes when a company understands the traits of people that visit their Website and by developing a site that meets user needs. This improves usability and helps the site reach its objectives. Here are the 12 most common user types as seen in user testing sessions.
1. Ability to Use the Web
The competence level of users can vary from novice to expert and their ability online does have an impact on the effectiveness of your Website. Websites should be usable by a wide variety of abilities. For example, many novice Web users are over 45 years of age, have a strong desire to use the Web and money to spend online. What is the ability of your average site visitor in your target market? Do they understand the basics of Web navigation and searches engines? Can they use a browser’s functionality? How well does your Website appeal to the novice user? Most Web users are somewhere in the middle, but the trend is toward a higher level of online competencies.
2. Readers vs. Scanners
Does the user take the time to read instructions or blocks of text on the site? Do they scan quickly for overviews? Websites should be designed for both scanners and readers. The user should be able to scan the surface of the site and dig deep for volumes of content to read if they like. Most Web users are scanners first and readers second. Also, scanners are more likely to click on text links while scanning content.
3. Click vs. Scrollers
Many users will not click on a link for fear of being taken to another Website, losing their progress or getting lost. Do your site visitors favor scrolling and the safety of a long page? Or are they comfortable clicking? It is important to know what appears above the fold on your Web page and how this appeals to clickers who may not scroll below the fold.
4. Shoppers (browsers) vs. Target Buyers
Is the user comfortable browsing the site for various items or do they come with a specific product or service in mind? How well does your site do with shoppers and browsers? Most Web surfers have a very specific task they are looking to accomplish online. Your site should understand what that is and lead them in the right direction.
5. Click on Graphic Ads vs. Will not Click on Ads
Is the user willing to click on ads and large graphics? Or do they ignore these graphics and use text and the navigation system to find what they need? Many Websites contain large clickable graphics and ads. Most users ignore these ads.
6. Will Call a Toll Free Number for Help vs. Will Never Call
Many Web users prefer not to deal with the hassles of calling a toll free number. They are on the Web to buy or get information online and would rather not call. Does your Website function as a tool to drive people to a toll free phone number or is it easy to get information and purchase online? Most users would rather not call a toll free number for help, although they do like knowing how to contact your business if needed. Website users prefer to get their information and tasks completed on the Website.
7. Read Privacy and Policy Statements vs. Briefly Scan or NOT Read
These statements are very important and every Website should have them. It is also important to know if your visitors are reading them and how they are reacting. Most Website visitors do not read policies, yet it should not be a barrier to users that do read this important content. Sharing or marketing to their email address is a key factor for users that review privacy statements.
8. Will Buy Online with Credit Card vs. Never Buy Online
Some, novice Web users are likely to use the Internet to get information, but not put their credit card online because of a lack of understanding about security issues. It is important that you understand what percent of your visitors will not buy anything online. These site visitors need easy access to your phone number.
9. Look at Graphics and Photos vs. Look for Content
Just about all Website users love photos and static visual images that are not perceived as ads or clip art. Many users are also interested in specific written content. What are the key areas of interest for your site visitors? Are there enough photos on the Website to build interest and enough written content to explain your offering?
10. Use of the Search Function vs. Navigation Menus
The majority of users do not use a Website’s search function because it is difficult to get results. Many search queries on Websites are unique and often difficult to produce intended results. Users have learned to avoid searching on a Website and stick to the navigation menus. Make sure all the pages can be reached from a well-structured, static and intuitive navigation system.
11. Look for Deals vs. Looking for Quality
Most users look for great pricing on the Web; however don’t forget the market for hard to find items or quality goods. These user types are not necessarily looking for a great price, but rather a great buy. Which marketplace is your site targeting?
12. Default Settings or Customize
When a user shops on your site are they more comfortable with the site showing them the options and leading them through a process? Or do they want to drive and customize what they are doing on the Website?
The better you can understand you site visitors’ preferences, research your marketplace and understand your Web stats, the better you can convert Website visitors into sales leads or customers. One of the best ways to accomplish this is through well-planned usability testing. Get inside the head of your site visitors to better meet their needs and design a better Website.