Your website visitor wants one thing: to find good information easily. You want your website to do one thing: convert leads.
The two goals aren’t mutually exclusive; they actually work very well together. We can make our information easy to find, and still get an email address or a sale from website visitors. In fact, the better we present our site and information, the more likely a visitor will be willing to do what we ask them to do.
Anything that you do with your site that keeps your visitor from achieving their ultimate goal is going to annoy them enough that they’ll bounce right out. Ignore the four key aspects of a website, and you’ll make sure people run from your site in droves.
The foundation of your website to your visitor is what they experience. You might think it’s your code, or your server. Visitors have more superficial concerns. While those other things obviously have an effect on the visitor’s experience, they don’t really care if you have the best code in the world if your site looks bad. Foundations have to do with ease-of-use.
For the visitor, your foundation is:
- Speed. Visitors won’t wait long for your page to load, whether it’s a slow server or too many graphics and widgets. They don’t care how cool your graphics and widgets are. They want the page to load right now.
- Color. Avoid black backgrounds with light type. It’s hard to read.
- Fonts. Find a font that’s easy to read, and use a large enough size for readability, too.
- Dead Links. Disappointment isn’t really the word to use when a visitor arrives at your 404 error page, or lands on a page that says it’s “under construction.” A better phrase to use for that situation is “never coming back.”
Just like a restaurant’s ambience are almost as important as the food (first impressions matter!), the ambience of your website can enhance or hide your great content.
For the visitor, your ambience is marred by:
- Forced Animation. Whether it’s too many animated GIFs, a Flash intro (including a ‘skip’ button doesn’t fully solve the problem), or blink tags, your visitor doesn’t want it forced on them.
- Forced Sound. Whether your website starts churning out music or you have a video that plays automatically (news sites are notorious for this), your visitor might not be in a place where a blast of sound is appropriate (work, anyone?). They’ll click out of your site super fast and not come back. Sometimes, in a moment of panic, the back button is easier than turning down the sound.
There is no situation where you should make it confusing or difficult to get around your website (except maybe in this case). Unless you want to infuriate and anger visitors, keep your site simple to get around. No one should feel like they went down the rabbit hole with no idea how to get back.
For the visitor, your website is made confusing by:
- Mystery. Navigation is for finding your way around, not cleverness. Back in the early days, this was called mystery meat navigation. Now, we might just call it “cool design” and forget our site isn’t meant for us, but for the user.
- Starvation. Whether you use breadcrumbs or clear and methodically planned sub-navigation, your visitor should always be able to find their way home.
- No Search. Make your search easy to find. Visitors will use it. Don’t make them jump through hoops to find a search option.
Rare is the web surfer that loves invasive ad techniques. We’ve learned to ignore them at the periphery somewhat, which means push marketers have become even more creative in making sure their ads get eyeballs.
Visitors to your site are not going to appreciate:
- Pop-up Ads. Do you love it when you go to a site and before you can do anything, a pop-up window covers the screen and asks you to buy, sign up, or get the newsletter? It’s annoying. If it’s annoying for you, it’s annoying for your visitor. No one — NO ONE — likes pop-ups. Don’t use them on your website. Ever.
- Moving Ads. Ads that move along with your visitor as they are trying to scroll away are a terrible idea. It’s like you’re saying to them “I see you’re trying to get away from my ad, but I want it to follow you.”
- Moving Pop-up Ads. Wow. No. Absolutely not.
It wouldn’t hurt to take it easy on the banner and sidebar ads, either. While most visitors can ignore them, they’ll also learn to ignore anything around them. You’re setting your site up to be ignored.
All That, Plus Content
Keep those four key concepts in mind when making your site, and you’ll be OK. It ought to go without saying that you need good content. Without that, even the best website fails. Websites with bad content do not get repeat visitors. Make all of your content count. Don’t pollute your site with adds, gimmicks, or anything else that gets in the way of the two objectives. Don’t build your lead conversion plan on things that website visitors hate.
And, more than anything, don’t take power away from visitors to your website. Don’t let your website do things that they didn’t ask it to do. That’s angering. And angry or annoyed visitors don’t readily give you their emails.