Running an online business is hard enough, even if it’s a simple e-shop or something with little to no innovation.

If you do include a serious innovation parameter though, things become much more unpredictable and much riskier. They may also become more profitable, but only if you manage to get the mix right – and that’s a big if.

There’s a million things you need to set up correctly to make your startup work properly. They can be categorized from team to product, and from business model to the financial aspects.

However, there’s one factor that’s particularly important when you’re trying to make people understand an innovative concept, or at least a new way of doing otherwise familiar things. That factor is none other than usability, and it’s quite elusive to get right – often it’s necessary to bring in external experts after reaching a certain point.

In the beginning stages of a business, it may not be necessary to hire professionals for this task. So every entrepreneur should be aware of certain strategies they can use to ensure the usability of their online business.

Usability tips

There’s a couple of tried and tested solutions that you can implement to at least manage some level of usability.

The main concept behind these guidelines is to reduce the time from the moment a user sees a screen to the moment they understand what they need to do on it. If possible, this should be cut down to milliseconds, otherwise seconds or minutes at the latest.

Here’s a quick and helpful list of pointers:

Introduce online help tips

Design online help tips that appear while users work their way through your service. These should be very short so that users can follow them easily.

Help tips are proven to be beneficial in solving problems or clarifying perplexities the exact moment they arise.

Create wizards

Wizards are essentially multiple-choice, step-by-step walkthroughs to guide users along with the most basic setups, especially during the initial steps. This technique is very helpful in giving users an idea of the processes they should follow and limiting the ways in which they can make mistakes.

Introduce hover tips when entering data or completing fields

Any time there’s a form that needs filling in it’s good to have an explanation or a clarification that appears when you hover the mouse over the question. Of course, for the most obvious fields (name, address, etc.) this isn’t necessary.

Even trivial fields like asking for an email address could use a hover, something explaining that you won’t share their email address with anyone else for example.

It’s surprising how little sense some forms can make to an outsider, or how for one reason or another you might lose people who simply will not fill out a form. You could retain some potential customers just by adding a simple and quick hover tip.

Include video walkthroughs of tasks

Video helps some people more than others – give them the option to learn what your service is about in that medium too.

Some users are more visual than others, while other users prefer to learn during their downtime (e.g. during their lunch break) by watching a video. Moreover, there are others who like to see (and share) clips they can skip through and get to the parts they need to watch and understand.

Making videos generally implies considerable costs (at the very least in time) but once the other methods are in place that’s the next thing to cover.

Introduce a manual or a FAQ section

Yes, even something as simple as an FAQ section can prevent customers from churning. By adding a section like this, customers are more likely to give your service a second chance and press on to solve the issues themselves. The one drawback to this solution is that your manual or FAQs have to change as often as your service does.

Let’s Recap

Of course, these are just tips to get you on the right track at the start of your business journey, once you’ve grown in volume and traction it’s time to get an actual usability study done.

Some people earn their living making websites easier to use, and eventually, you might just need to hire one such professional. After all, you can spot websites that have gone through this process from a mile away – and for good reason.