How to Create a 'Thoughtless' Web Site — and Why
Business owners who are considering redesigning their Web sites should read Steve Krug's book, "Don't Make Me Think."
It’s my Bible on good Web site design and layout and helped me recommit my team to develop a site that never, ever make visitors “think.”
Why not have visitors think? It’s very simple. E-marketing research has shown that visitors generally spend less than 27 seconds on a Web page — and leave a site in less than two minutes if the site isn't intuitive and makes them think.
Twenty-seven seconds sounds a bit generous to me. My instincts say the number is probably closer to eight or 10 seconds a page, but I haven’t been able to find the research to back that up.
A good benchmark for your Web site should be one that has visitors spending at least five minutes at your site viewing seven or eight pages. Of course, if you have more pages than the average Web site, you want to strive to create a site that encourages even longer visits and more page views.
(If you don't know how long visitors remain at your site or how many pages they view, e-mail me to arrange a free, complimentary consultation on Google Analytics.)
Three Tips on Good Web Design
Following are three tips on "thoughtless" Web design that can help increase the length of visits to your site and the number of pages that visitors view:
- Don't Write the Great American Novel
Web visitors don't read traditional "corporate" Web sites. In fact, they rarely “read” Web pages at all.
It's not that they can't read what’s on your site. Like most Internet shoppers, though, they just don't want to spend a lot of time reading copy.
Instead, they scan Web sites looking for interesting words or graphics that jump out and say "click me."
So, design your site so that each page has obvious sub-sections — like the front page of a newspaper. And use boxes, headlines, subheads, photos and color to draw attention to the various sub-sections to make it easier for visitors for find what's of interest.
Also, use bold and italics to move your visitors' eyes around your Web pages. Eliminate large blocks of text and present your information in small paragraphs of no more than two to three sentences per paragraph.
Just be sure that you have enough keyword-rich copy in the smaller paragraphs to satisfy the search engine spiders.
- Don't Make Your Visitors Pan for Gold
Web visitors initially enjoy participating in a bit of a guessing game when they first come to a new site. They enjoy searching for and discovering that nugget of information — or great price on a product or service — that they’re seeking.
But as soon as their first or second guess in the search for information on your site doesn't pan out, most visitors lose patience — and if they come up empty too many times, they leave.
The best way to keep your vistors from "coming up empty” is to follow the site conventions established in such popular online retail sites as Amazon.com and Target to make navigating your site as intuitive as possible.
These sites have already familiarized millions of Web visitors with how and where to click and find what they’re looking for, so when customers visit your site, they come with expectations on how your site should function.
Don’t confuse them with a site that will make them think about how to find what they're seeking.
Instead, take advantage of what they already expect in a Web site. For example, major retail sites put their logos in the upper left corner — this is known in Web site design as the site ID — so put your logo in the upper left corner, too. Since many retail sites put the "Request Info" or "Contact Us" button in the upper left corner, do the same on your site.
Another convention you should follow is to make sure that your navigation buttons look like buttons and are labeled clearly. Clever or cute button names may seem impressive, but they'll confuse visitors because they don't clearly define the content behind the button. Stick with clarity.
The more Web design conventions that you follow, the more intuitive — and the more “thoughtless” — your site will be to your visitors. This means, of course, that they'll spend less time figuring out how to search your site to find what they’re looking for — and spend more time learning about your product.
- When Web Visitors Play, They Buy
The number one reason visitors come to a Web site is to find information.
But they also want to find it through an interactive format that they can "play" with — like video, audio, flash slideshows, mortgage calculators and interactive product demonstrations.
Bricks and mortar retailers like Brookstone figured out long ago that when customers can play, they buy. How many back massagers or pen flashlights have you played with at Brookstone and ended up buying while waiting for your wife or significant other to finish shopping?
Visitors want interactive, authentic, user-generated information these days. Give it to them and you’ll get repeat visitors and viral word-of-mouth referrals.
Meredith Oliver, MIRM, MCSP is the president and founder of Meredith Communications, a sales training and e-marketing consulting company based in Orlando that delivers marketing services to builders and developers nationwide. For more information, e-mail Oliver, call her at 321-285-1660 or visit her Web site, www.CreatingWow.com.
This article originally appeared on the NAHB Sales and Marketing Channel.
Tax Credit Web Site Looks at Opportunity of a Lifetime
Builders and other industry professionals can help spur home sales by referring prospective first-time home buyers to www.federalhousingtaxcredit.com. The NAHB Web site provides detailed information on the $8,000 federal tax credit for first-time home buyers included in the economic stimulus legislation signed into law by President Obama.
Consumers can use the Web site to find information on the tax credit – including a detailed question and answer section. It also includes information about other housing-related and small business measures in the legislation and a number of home-buying resources for consumers.
Spanish Version Also Available Online
A Spanish version of this increasingly popular Web site is also available to provide detailed information on the tax credit to Spanish-speaking first-time home buyers.
Industry professionals are encouraged to highlight either tax credit Web site when marketing to their potential first-time home buyer market.
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