A website is a major marketing tool for your business. It should provide information that fulfills the immediate needs of your site visitors and then allow them to delve more deeply into your products services and company culture. If your website functions well and if your visitors are able to navigate around the site to find what they need their visit will be successful and they will be willing to return. If they are unable to find what they are looking for or are frustrated because the site does not display properly on the device they are using, they will quickly leave the site never to return again.
With this in mind, it is important to think about how your website operates and functions for your visitors.
Is your website friendly or is it frightening off your visitors? Here are some things to consider.
- Website Goals
- Leading the Way
- Visitor Accommodation
Navigation: A confusing layout is one of the main reasons visitors will abandon a website. If visitors cannot find what they are looking for quickly and easily they will not stick around. The navigation or main menu of your website should provide users the means of getting from one page to another page on your website easily. Generally there are two main styles of navigation: A left/right menu or a menu along the top of the website. Keep the links in your menu short with an accurate description of the content of the page it is linking to. Keep your menu items consistent in the way they look and function; if an item is blue and when you hover over the item it turns red, do this for every menu item. Consistency removes any confusion your visitor might experience if they were oddly shaped, scattered across the screen, or styled differently (different fonts, different colours, etc.) See example below.
Functionality: The functionality of your website relies on what makes sense to your visitors. If the basics of the website are not set up in a way the visitors are expecting, they may become confused and abandon the website. Following standard accepted practices will ensure your visitor knows where to find each component and provide a natural flow through your websites content. As an example; a book opens from right to left, and the words on the pages are read from left to right – this is an accepted practice for publishers when new books are released. If a book were to read from right to left and open in the opposite direction, readers would be confused and may be uncomfortable in reading further. Be sure your most important content is easily found and the next step is logical to the visitor. It is also important that you eliminate any broken links on your website so that visitors can navigate all pages on your website without any problems.
Website Goals: What is it you want your website to accomplish? Your website should be designed to help your visitors achieve this goal. For instance: if you are a natural supplements company who wants to sell products online, you should make it easy for your visitors to navigate to the store section of your website and actively place buttons in your content that will encourage your visitors to go from passively viewing your content to actively clicking through your store, entering their payment information and purchasing a product.
Another goal might be to convert visitors into leads through the use of a contact form or quote request form. If that is a major goal of your website you should make that contact form highly visible to visitors to encourage them to reach out to your business. A “Free Quote” button may lead them down the path towards a purchase.
Leading The Way: Having fantastic information on your website is a great way to inform your visitors about your products, services and your business in general. A highly functioning website must have good content but that’s not all…
A visitor should never wonder what they should do next. Every page of your website should offer options for the next logical step. For instance: You have a products page that is promoting a highly requested product of yours, that’s great! You’ve cast the fishing line and may have gotten a bite, now it is time to guide your visitor to actually making the purchase. You should put energy into making sure there is a visible button that is apparent to your visitor that when they click this button they will proceed to the next step. Start reeling your visitors in with a ‘BUY NOW’ button directly underneath or beside your promotion, that way your visitors know exactly what they can do to further the business transaction. Other directions (calls to action) you may want to use to direct your visitors are “Read More”, “Call Now” , “Free Download”, “Click for more details”; offer them the next move you want them make to get to your goal!
Visitor Accommodation: Your visitors are not all the same, they are viewing your website through a variety of devices (laptop/ tablet/smart phone/ screen reader for those with disabilities) and use a number of different browsers (Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox, etc.). It is important that your website will load properly across the different internet browsers and devices to provide a consistent browsing experience to all your potential customers, in order to maintain consistency have your web developer test their code in each.
In order for your website to be accessible and user friendly to everyone, there are a list of guidelines for designers and developers to follow in order to make the website work for people with disabilities, whether it is blindness, slight blindness, motor disabilities or deafness. By following the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, visitors will be able to access your content without any errors.
The five topics above were designed to introduce some ideas for the next time you are making modifications to your website, for further reading into the topic take a look at some of the links below!