There are three kinds of web user:

  1. Infrequent: maybe like your gran, people who only go online once in a while to check their email or order something from Amazon (if that). They don’t care about web usability in any particular depth, for two reasons. 1) they’re not online enough for it to have a significant effect on them, and 2) they’ve not used enough sites to really know the difference between good and bad. If they find a site difficult to ise, they’re most likely to put up with it and continue to use the site anyway.
  2. Skimmers: those who use the web fairly often—maybe not every day, but often enough to be pretty web-savy. They maybe go online to check our websites of favourite bands or authors, buy on iTunes or Amazon, use Facebook. These, I reckon, are the people at whom the impressive flash sites are aimed at; people who liked a little visual glitter but don’t use the web so much that they find flash slows them down.
  3. Regular Geeks: these are the real ‘power’ users, people who use the net for business and pleasure; they may work there as creative professionals. They like simple, clean sites that present information in an easy to find way and don’t add much visual ‘fuss’. These are the people who are likely to decide not to shop with you because your site is difficult to use, or who will change banks because the online banking is better with one bank than with another.

So, if group three is the only (small) group likely to change the way it approaches your business as a result of the design of your website, why change the design of your website at all? One word: impression. People may not always change what they do because of what they see, but they will remember. If a website is badly designed, even my Gran will come away with an impression of the company as one that’s difficult to deal with, unhelpful, and in some cases downright rude.

These impressions last. They also accumulate over time; so when my Gran starts getting a little more confident online, you might just find she starts banking somewhere else…