The best surfer out there is the one having the most fun.
Have you ever watched a surfer study the waves they intend to ride and the ones they reject? Their approach to this wave riding decision making process is part science and part of an art form. Searching and deciding on what websites to visit follows a very similar pattern. How many times have you been surfing the internet and opened a business website only to be overwhelmed with detail and left scratching your head wondering what it is trying to provide?
Clicking continues until finally, maybe, something surfaces that may have relevance, but the information is incoherent and lacks connectivity. Although websites are meant to inform their target audience, it is imperative that they also need to be able to tie all the elements into a meaningful and creative approach to keep the attention of the user. How can this be done? The secret is following five guiding principles during the development phase.
1. Keep it Simple - The great college basketball Coach Al McGuire once said, “Keep it simple, when you get too complex you forget the obvious.” This is something that cannot be overstated in websites. When thinking about creating a long-lasting memory, sort the material into manageable and meaningful chunks that give the visitor a chance to digest each area one at a time and tie the story together. Avoid the excessive use of buttons to more detailed explanations and learn to economize word usage. Use pictures and videos to help express the intent and take away of the section. Keep the layout consistent throughout the website. Do not have inconsistent pages that do not connect with one another. A simple rule to follow is if the user is using the site map as a crutch to navigate the website that should be a flag the site is potentially over complex.
2. Focus on the Message – Trying to get overly creative with a business web site can be a disastrous recipe for failure to retain visitors on a website. The message needs to stay on point and built around a unifying theme throughout all of the pages. The website needs to stay on a consistent vibe. Avoid the temptation of using pictures and videos that do not seem to connect to the message. For example, that drone footage over the Grand Canyon may look awesome, but is it really going to connect with a user wanting to buy a baseball bat? Focus on images and footage that symbolizes the essence of the product and / or service and avoid long winded superfluous information that is not germane to the transaction. As in the baseball bat example, maybe drone footage over a baseball field in the inner city may provide the spirit and determination of the bat’s personality you are trying to sell.
3. Little Things Do Matter – It cannot be understated how important it is to proofread and validate the website has an intentional flow to the content. Not only should grammar and spelling be closely analyzed, but it also should include assessing the structure and length of sentences. It can be very tempting when building a web site to try to say too much in a sentence. For example, when listing capabilities or services avoid too many commas and use more periods. If what has to be said exceeds over 3 paragraphs that should send an alarm that it is simply too much material. It is quite common for web sites to overlook standard format and structure to get a certain feel and look, but remember that a potential customer visiting your site uses a set of criteria to evaluate their decision-making process before considering committing to a transaction. This is especially true for sites focused on selling more service oriented and business consulting-based services. If you decide to make it more hip or try something creative, be sure to speak the language of your target audience, and accept the consequences of a potentially narrower audience.
4. Balance the Content – The home page of the business web site should contain enough information that allows the potential customer the ability to make an initial decision on the likelihood of purchasing. The website should not force the user to have to make a decision based on seeking out information on additional pages unless it is for clarity on specifications or complete details of a product. This does not mean the home page should have so much information that the website visitor is drowning in content (see point 1). The home page should serve as an informative road map of the site that provides the content for the site visitor to want to explore and learn more about the material. The main page should contain who, what, and why of the products that compels the user to want to seek out additional content that supports the home page. A simple rule to follow is if the products that you can touch create a website that summarizes and drills, but if it is more service and consultative based create a website that is creative and innovative. The key to all of this is to focus on the home page to counteract short attention spans and people that suffer from an itchy clicking finger.
5. Tie it Together – Avoid leaving loose ends on a website at all cost. Do not build up the viewer’s anticipation only to let them down with not delivering on the promised content inside the heart of the website. For example, if a lot of hype is created on the home page about learning how to putting together a table, but then after the user clicks the button only to find out it is nothing more than a marketing pitch with the user wanting more expect to lose a lot of business. The key is do not create cliffhangers, but meaningful and well thought out material that gives the user a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment when they are finished with the website visit. Instead of deception and over inflating a website, simply create a story with the website that captivates and entices the user that gets them to share the site with others or at a minimum share knowledge from their experience with others.
A properly structured business website that tells a story and informs the consumer early and often will get the web surfer to share with others. Think of creating a website like a cinematographer does when putting together a movie set. The flow should be consistent with the props (pictures and videos) and set the tone (sections and layout) for a complete and compelling result.
Laying out the right website take effort, but in the long run it will yield great rewards. Just because that video of a sick skateboard trick was entertaining to watch, it is not going to convince a customer that you are qualified to walk their dogs. Stop creating a site for your audience. Stick to the message, keep it simple, create a compelling story line, and focus on what matters and expect web surfers to stop by and make some waves on your business web site, bro.