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Creating a usable and persuasive website takes self discipline. Too often, we feel that if a potential customer might want to see or do something on our website, we must include it.

Those with technical backgrounds are particularly likely to struggle with this. Being highly security-minded, they are trained to design for possibilities. “If something can happen, we must plan for it.”

Usability folk must think differently. We should plan for probabilities, not possibilities. The reason is simple: a website designed to accommodate every conceivable user — and every conceivable task or need — will turn out to be a cluttered mess, completely lacking in focus. It won’t be usable or persuasive to anyone.

Our mission is to uncover what really needs to be included, in terms of:

  • Security measures (where risk is low)
  • Product offerings
  • Product details (colors, etc)
  • Trust elements (including security badges, awards, etc.)
  • Winnowing tools
  • Advanced search features
  • Persuasion elements (tactics used)
  • Messaging (and the personality types to whom copy is directed)
  • Alternate calls to action
  • Suggested companion products
  • Purchase quantities (discounts for multiple purchases, etc.)
  • Shipping options
  • Technologies (i.e. Ajax, Flash, Javascript, etc.)

So get to know your customers. Find out how they think and what they really want. Then focus your website on delivering. Eliminate anything that’s likely to be a mere distraction to most visitors.