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Designing Your Site for the "Frequent Flyer"

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Posted March 30, 2001 By Alexis Gutzman     Feedback

The Catalyst Group Design explains how you can keep everyone happy by optimizing your site for both newcomers and veterans.

In the earlier days of the Internet, the mantra uttered most often when it came to site design was the familiar KISS guideline: Keep It Simple, Stupid. In a similar vein, we sometimes heard about the "ATM test" for any new interface: make it no more difficult to operate than an ATM. A free report out from Catalyst Group Design now suggests we change our thinking on these matters, and I have been persuaded.

Catalyst's argument hinges on research from CommerceNet/Nielsen Internet Demographic Data for the United States and Canada from 1999. In short, while in 1997 the population of new users on the Web was 24.3 million (new users defined as those with less than two years of experience), in 1999 the population of new users was only 4.9 million. Additionally, the ratio of experienced to new users rose from 0.6 to 18.4. This means there are far more veteran users than new users visiting most sites today.

Veteran users do not necessarily have the same need to be spoon fed information as novices do. Also, returning visitors may even get annoyed with all the "ease-of-use" features a site has implemented. Catalyst recommends that a site should offer both easy navigational features for first-time visitors and features for fast navigation for those "expert" frequent visitors.

The report includes examples from sites doing things right. Amazon.com's 1-Click ordering is the first example. Below the easy-to-use "Add to Shopping Cart" button is a "Buy Now with 1-Click" button for the veteran shopper. The presence of this "expert feature" is not going to confuse or intimidate those new to the site. Another example is the way EXP.com permits visitors to turn off the helpful tips that it routinely provides to visitors when they sign in.

Catalyst's report is full of practical advice with examples of optimizing a site for both newcomers and veterans. Recommendations include analyzing site traffic to see how people really do use the site, and creating user scenarios -- try to use the site as you would anticipate your visitors might use it.

This report is part one of a series cleverly titled Surviving the Adolescent Internet. It's short, to the point, and free. I highly recommend you click over there and get your own copy.

Alexis D. Gutzman is an E-commerce Technology Author and Consultant and author of The HTML 4 Bible, FrontPage 2000 Answers!, and ColdFusion 4 for Dummies. Her newest book, The E-commerce Arsenal: 12 Technologies You Need to Prevail in the Digital Arena is now available. She can be reached at agutzman@internet.com

Reprinted from ECommerce Guide

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