If You Build It Right They Will Come
With all of the competition for attention on the world wide web (W3) it’s difficult to get anyone to notice your little, 10-page web site selling your hand-woven baskets imported all the way from Wichita.
There are over a million basket sellers on line (go ahead, Google “hand woven baskets” to see what pops up) and if you’re thinking of launching a basket-case web site, you’ll be amazed at how many people never find you – even though YOUR hand-woven Wichita baskets are the best made in all of Kansas.
So, how can you capture the attention of site visitors? What do they want when they pop up on your web site? And how can you keep them on site long enough to buy a basket?
Green Host It knows web sites. We’ve been doing this since Bill Clinton (‘member him?) was president. We’ve seen well-designed sites and sites that are just plain awful. So benefit from what we’ve learned.
Web Site Design Tips:
We recently undertook a study to determine which sites soar like an eagle and which run head on into the brick wall of abject failure and, interestingly, the successful sites have a lot in common. So do the train wrecks. Here are seven suggestions to improve your chances of W3 success and avoiding the brick wall known as CRASH and BURN.
1. Make sure text is easy to read
- Don’t get fancy. Lots of new site owners think that if they use a bright red text, a zippy font and place it against a black background, the site looks really cool. It doesn’t.
- It looks hard to read. Lots of site visitors have some degree of vision impairment so make it simple to read what you have to say.
- Use black or a dark gray colored text as your choice throughout the site. Don’t switch colors from page to page. That looks slap-dash and put together with baling wire.
- Place your text against a white or off-white background.
- Make your type big – big enough that long-timers can read it without reaching for their specs. (That’s reading glasses to you youngsters.)
- Use negative space. Separate large bodies of text into smaller paragraphs.
- Place key selling points in bullet list format.
Finally, use the Verdana type font. Microsoft designed Verdana to be larger, darker and easier to read on the computer screen. And isn’t that where your sales copy appears? So make it easier to read and to move the visitor closer to making a purchase with MS’s Verdana font.
2. Fit the design to your demographic
Did you know that older computer users scroll less? It’s true.
Did you know that older users – especially techno-phobes – don’t use the browser’s back button. Heck, a lot of these oldie but goodies don’t even know they have a back button on their browser. They don’t even know they have a browser!!!
On the other hand, if your sweet spot is the 16-30-year-old male buyer, you can get away with using cool graphics and rad pix to pull in these savvy web surfers to look around. If you’re selling to older buyers, keep it simple. Younger buyers, keep it smokin’.
3. Put the good stuff on the home page
You can’t be sure where a site visitor will land on your web site. Some will land on an interior landing page. Other’s will land on your home page – the first page they see.
Most organic traffic, driven by search engines like Yahoo, Bing, Ask, Inktomi and Google, will send visitors directly to the home page, which should contain all the good stuff. What’s good stuff?
- special prices and sales
- free content (like a free eBook or free newsletter)
- product pictures
- contact information
- a search box (so the visitor can find what s/he’s looking for)
- a navigation bar or column
- tips, suggestions and utile information in bite-sized chunks
- the sale of the day (shows you’re up to date – daily)
Take extra care in designing your home page, but don’t assume that all visitors will land at your front door. Depending on the query words entered by the search engine user, that visitor may end up on a landing page deep within the site so every page should have a little something special to keep visitors on site long enough to buy something.
4. Give away free stuff
FREE is the magic word on the W3 so give away freebies – buy one get one FREE, for example. Or, sign up for a free eBook download or newsletter.
Site visitors like “free.” Don’t you?
5. Bury a highly optimized page deep within your site
A well-optimized landing page contains your strongest keywords in strong text – banners, headers, sub-heads, bold, italicized or underlined text.
Add a title tag to this well-optimized page. This title tag contains your strongest keywords, telling search engine bots exactly what information is contained on that page. So why bury it deep in the site?
This way, search engines rank this highly-optimized page at the top of the list of organic search results. The visitor clicks on the SERPs link and discovers that he or she is already deep in your site so they slowly move to the home page to begin their search.
Amazon is a master at the well-optimized, deeply-buried web page. Conduct a search on post-natal care and guaranteed, a page from Amazon will show up on the first page of Google’s SERPs because it contains dozens of books on post natal care. From here, browsers can find the book they’re looking for and, oh by the way, some of these visitors stick around long enough to find other items of interest to toss into their shopping carts.
6. Make it easy to pay you
- PayPal offers a payment gateway (that’s what “ways to pay” are called) and so does Google Checkout. These are free checkouts, though you may have to add a shopping cart module like osCommerce (free).
- Consider adding a merchant account. They’re a little pricey but they accomplish a couple of key goals:
A merchant account keeps visitors on your web site instead of sending them to the PayPal site and rule number 1: once you have a visitor on your site, keep her on your site. Enable the visitor to make a purchase right then and there without having to go to PayPal or Google Checkout.
A lot of visitors don’t have a PayPal account. PayPal was created by e-Bay to facilitate transactions but if your site visitor has never even made a bid on e-Bay they may not know how easy PayPal is to use. (Anyone with an e-mail account can receive a payment. Yep, it really is that easy, though some buyers don’t know it.)
- People have grown accustomed to using credit cards on line. A PayPal or Google Checkout payment gateway may take money from a checking account if the visitor has an existing account with routing and account number, even though they want to charge it.
- It’s difficult to “undo” a purchase using off-site payment gateways.
- These payment gateways take their cut for services rendered. A merchant account does, too, but the merchant account’s cut drops as you conduct more business through MasterCard, Visa, Discovery or other well-recognized credit cards. This increases the comfort level of the buyer. They use these charge cards every day. No biggie.
7. Get organized
Organize your products (or services) logically. If you sell clothing, there should be a shoe section, a casual wear section, an outerwear section and so on, just like you see at your local Wal-Mart.
The last thing you want is a mish-mash of products and service offerings all on the same page. Create a simple index as part of your navigation so visitors can find what they’re looking for without a long, drawn out search.
This is what Amazon.com looked like on March 3, 2000. See all those tabs at the top of the Amazon page? Way too confusing. And as more categories were added, more tabs were added making it even more difficult for visitors to find what they were looking for.
Again, look at Amazon, perhaps the best on-line retailer as far as site design is concerned. 10 years ago, Amazon used a system of tabs that appeared at the top of the page – one tab for books, one for CDs, one for jewelry and so on. Problem was, as the site added more and more categories, it was required to add more and more of these tabs at the top of the page until it became more difficult to find the “department” the site visitor was looking for.
So, Amazon designers switched to a drop down menu that listed the different departments to simplify the visitor’s search and voila – simpler navigation, simpler search for a specific item.
Yep, even the most successful sites are constantly revising the look, the organization and the ease of use for site visitors.
When designing your site, place yourself in the position of the first-time visitor and configure your site for that prospect. Hey, if it worked for Jeff Bezos (Amazon’s founder)…
…it’ll sure enough work for you.