Speed equals time to destination

We can get a bit mechanical about assessing the speed of our websites. It’s true that for machines such as Google, speed is all about the number of milliseconds it takes for a page to appear. But for real customers, speed is about the time taken getting to the right page. And a fast-responding site is no use if the page they want is hard to find and buried too far down in the depths of the website.

Too many business websites are designed to reflect the structure of the company, rather than the needs of the user. For example, it’s commonplace to see a home page offering the user a choice of products from the company’s Division A, Division B and Division C. The first problem here is that it may not be obvious at all to customers which division handles the products they’re after.

Suppose the prospect was a user of blue widgets who thought there might be a better alternative. On arrival at the site, the options we offer are to click to see our Red Widgets, our Blue Widgets or our mysteriously-named ‘Systems Solution Division’. So the prospect clicks on ‘Blue Widgets’, and finds a range of products which, to be honest, don’t seem to offer much new. Result? A click back to Google to look at another supplier.

However, what our visitor didn’t see was that ‘Red Widgets’ are the more modern alternative to blue widgets. Even worse, the visitor didn’t see that the ‘Systems Solution Division’, whatever that is, turns out to be a bunch of widget experts who could supply a custom-built, modern blue widget replacement, if only they were ever asked. Did the pages in the ‘Blue Widgets’ section suggest the other two as an alternative? Of course not.

The second problem with presenting the company’s products in terms of the company structure is that it may not reflect anything like what users need. The three-division scenario above is completely inappropriate if 70% of prospects want one of the Blue Widget division’s products, 20% want another product from that division, and only 10% want everything else from the company combined. Why make 70% of visitors click through an extra layer to get to that product? Three choices on the home page is fine, but they should be Product A from the Blue Widget division, Product B from the Blue Widget division, and a third option covering the rest of Blue Widget division’s products and the other two divisions.