Getting interested prospects to a poorly designed website is similar to someone coming to your office or store and no one's there to help them. After a few minutes, or on the internet a few seconds, they get frustrated and leave. On the internet, it's likely that prospect will never return - there are just too many other competitors out there. This article provides some information about how people behave online and communicates 5 important elements of a good website.
With so much information out there, people no longer "surf the web", but rather take a "laser-beam" approach to finding what they want. If it takes too long, they're off to another website. As a culture, most of us have lost our patience with poorly designed websites. To help us better understand how to engage people online, there have been several studies on web usability, many using eye-tracking technologies. Here are 2 interesting facts about how people behave on websites:
- The average person spends about 25 seconds viewing a home page, and about 45 seconds viewing a sub-page. With the average person capable of reading about 250-300 words a minute, your home page shouldn't have more than about 100 words of text, and your sub-pages about 200 words on average. More than that might go to waste. Naturally, really interesting content will always be read no matter how long, so these stats should only be considered as guidelines.
- Page scrolling is another area where caution should be taken. Less than 1 in 4 people will scroll the home page. So make sure all your good stuff is “above the fold” - meaning in view on the computer screen without scrolling. For sub-pages, the average person will scroll 1.3 times - that is, the average person will see 2.3 screen-views. Content near the bottom of a web-page often goes unnoticed - the site visitor simply loses patience and wants to move on. Admittedly, various computer resolutions and monitor sizes often make this a guessing game.
Critical Design Considerations
We're in "info-overload" and this has never been truer than on the internet. As such, effective websites are designed with a “don't make me read and don't make me think” mentality. So, what does this translate to in terms of website design and development techniques? Here are 3 more critical website design considerations:
- Navigation schemes should be intuitive ("don't make me think"). It used to be said that a person should be no more than 3 mouse-clicks away from any element of a website. This idea is no longer valid. 6 mouse-clicks that you don't need to think about are far more effective than 3 you need to figure out.
- Labeling links and navigation buttons. Don't get "cutesy" with labeling your links - people don't do "cutesy" on websites. Put yourself in the shoes of your customers and use the terms they would use, like, "don't make me think". Your website visitors will find your website easy to work with and more satisfying. They might even come back for more visits.
- Don't rely on your main navigation bar to get site visitors to go where you want them to go. Consider your main navigation bar as a "fail-safe" index that enables people to get back to a familiar place when they get lost. In addition to the main navigation buttons, use on-page linking strategies to move people along the path you want them to move - from "point of entry" to "call to action". Peoples' eyes are focused on the content area of web-pages not the main navigation bars. If it sounds like I'm suggesting duplicate links on a page, you are right - I am.
These 5 website design techniques are just the starting point to having a website that works and your prospects find easy to use. Next month's article will take this topic to another level and focus on 1) connecting emotionally with your prospects, 2) moving them along a path to solve their "pain", and 3) presenting content that makes a difference. You won't want to miss it.