Making the Horses Drink
The Web is the most comprehensively flawed world-changing technology ever. The ways in which you can screw up a Web site are without limit. In contrast, it’s a lot tougher to botch a fire, a wheel, a toilet, an ATM, or one of those KFC chicken/potato/corn/cheese bowls.
Like a really big Science Fair project, the Web sprouted organically and without profit motive. There wasn’t anybody in charge, there were only very loose rules, and Web site makers were left to their own devices – a hippie commune with mouse pads and tons of Mountain Dew.
The result of the Web’s socialist upbringing is that its core premise – accessing information – lacks standards. Imagine if every time you picked up a book the page numbering system was different. Some What if your cable TV only used prime numbers? Or if your radio would only tune to Pi? That’s the scenario we’re stuck with online. Every Web site requires each visitor to assess and learn its specific navigation schema.
It’s a tall order and it’s the reason why such a small percentage of Web site visitors do what we want them to do online. The percentage of Web site visitors that make a purchase on e-commerce sites (the “conversion rate”) is just over three percent. 97 out of 100 Web site visitors leaves empty-handed. Yikes.
But there are ways to help your Web site visitors understand your structure and lead them to a satisfying destination – hopefully an online order, lead, or other ROI-generating behavior.
People are People
Most of the visitors to your Web site will come occasionally and perhaps only once or twice. They do not understand the nuances and intricacies of your business, your corporate structure, or your product line. So don’t organize your site that way. If they can’t fathom the definition of a navigation label, they’re not likely to click on it. Name all navigational elements using language that your mother uses, not your customers – and certainly not your employees. Make it your mission to hunt down and kill all Byzantine abbreviations and insider jargon in the navigation – and if you have the stomach for it, site-wide.
Ultimately, the users of your Web site will tell you what is the most important content on the site, and thus how the site itself should be organized. Examine the usage statistics for your Web site and determine the pages that are most frequently accessed and that have the longest duration of stay – indicating visitor interest in the content. Rework your site so that those pages are part of your main navigation, not two or three levels down. The behavior of your visitors demonstrates how to organize your information for maximum ease of use. If its too jarring to change your main navigation in this way, add a Quick Links box to the top right corner of every page and include in it direct links to every popular page within your site.
Lend a Hand
Most sites are buffets of information. Plenty of content, but with no real thought given to selection, sequence, or relationships between components. You develop a bunch of Web pages, organize them in a seemingly logical fashion, and let visitors decide what they want to read and in what order. That type of freedom can produce troubling outcomes, the informational equivalent of eating 4 helpings of chocolate mousse, followed by 63 coconut shrimp.
Instead, think of your site as a chef’s tasting menu. Instead of just letting the patrons go wild on your content, give it to them in measured portions in a sequence that will maximize their satisfaction.
Determine in what order you ideally would like your site visitors to access specific pieces of content on your site to move them from interest to action. Then modify every page of your site so that it either guides the visitor along that path (from step 2 to step 3), or if it’s a page that isn’t in the key persuasion process, points the visitor into that funnel.
This is not difficult, and can be accomplished by adding links at the bottom of your pages that guide the visitor to the next logical page. Even the addition of “next” buttons on the bottom of each page have been proven to improve conversion rates by helping visitors get to the information they need to make a decision.
Play Master and Servant
Especially on popular and critical decision-making pages of your site (but ideally on all pages), don’t be shy about telling the user what to do if they are ready to buy. It’s okay to ask for the order.
Your action buttons (call now, free estimate, request information, add to cart, et al) need to be big and compelling. Ideally, they should be the most visually arresting item on the page, using the “hottest” colors so that visitors’ eyes will land on them when they scan the page. Visitors need to know how to take action. Don’t be shy.
A recent study found that placing a small graphic of animated human eyes that “look” toward the key action button can increase response rates.
The animated eyes trick is about Wayne Newton on the cheesy scale, so that might be over the line. But, getting people to your Web site costs you something every time. Following these techniques will make your site easier-to-use and will transform more of those visitors to buyers.