One Billion Web Users Need Better Websites

    December 20, 2005
    WebProNews Staff

Some time this year, the number of Internet users reached one billion. Billion with a “b.” If you count to one billion at one number per second, it would take you over 31 years to finish. It has taken the Internet 36 years to count that high, says web usability expert and former Sun Microsystems engineer Dr. Jakob Nielsen. The next 10 years will bring the second billion, growing at an annual rate of 18 percent, and will include unprecedented numbers from Asia and senior citizens-and that has huge implications in e-commerce.

Statistically, says Nielsen, the one billionth online user was a 24-year-old woman in Shanghai. Only 23 percent come from North America, leaving 24 percent in Europe and 36 percent in Asia. By 2015, though accounting for nearly one-third of e-commerce, North Americans will consist of only 15 percent of Internet users.

“This means that for e-commerce to fulfill its potential to double, sites must be more systematic at following the e-commerce usability guidelines. Selling to the 200 million early adopters was easy. The 800 million mainstream users who are now starting to shop need much smoother sites; the next billion will require even higher usability levels,” writes Nielsen.

In August, we reported on the importance smoothly operating websites to retain customers. As the entire world moves closer to jacking into the Net, usable website design will be crucial to earning a share of the world market. Nielsen gives guidelines for setting up websites for international use as well as helpful hints for marketing to the senior citizen crowd.

For e-business professionals, seniors should be a hot demographic. They typically have more buying power than others, but less knowledge of how to buy online. In fact, once on line, it takes the typical user up to 3 years to become comfortable buying online. That will change as the Baby Boomers retire and websites become more user-friendly.

Tapping into the foreign market is an exercise in cultural diversity. It goes beyond English by making sites readable in other languages. It includes different weights, measurements, dating systems, and reading styles.

Unless you intend to limit your market to one continent and only a third of its potential, then an all-encompassing approach to web design will become increasingly important.