Internal search data is free, quantitative usability testing, if you use it

Even if I’ve never met you or visited your web site, I can diagnose with a fair amount of certainty what many users say about it. Whether you realize it or now, they don’t particularly enjoy visiting your site.

That’s because most people use web sites only out of necessity. And your web site really has only one responsibility to these people: To give them the information they value. Period.

Ideally this trade of “effort for information” should be short and sweet. No visitors to your site want to feel like they’re on a scavenger hunt. But that’s exactly what it often feels like, and it pisses them off. Thus, your site’s low conversion rates and high abandon rates. How did I know about those? They’re about as predictable as inhaling and exhaling.

So how do you take some of the frustration out of using your web site? Simple. Fix your site’s confusing navigation and it’s improperly labeled and organized content.

And I suggest you start with the single easiest and best source for learning what’s missing on your site: Namely, data from your internal search.

Think about it. If you have an internal search engine operating right now, the people who find your site the most frustrating are often typing out their frustration in that little text box. The sound of user dissatisfaction (dissatisfaction with your navigation, dissatisfaction with your content) is right there … loud and unequivocal. But it’s got to be captured and measured or this gold mine of information is lost.

Okay, here’s a shameless plug: I and my team at ec-connection build this system in many of our clients’ web specifications. By tabulating the search phrases that users type in, we get to see what’s frustrating them, or at the very least, what they want to see on this site that they’re not finding. With this valuable, free quantitative research, we can fix our clients’ navigation and content problems. And watch the searches, and the user pain they suggest, fall off.

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