Sunday, 11 November 2012

Using A 'New Visitor' Perspective To Identify Website Improvements

Monday 4 July, 2011
What do you need to ask yourself when you are reviewing your site to make sure it is functioning the way you want and need it to? Here are 8 key questions to ask that will help you to look at your website with fresh eyes.
Looking at your website from a user's perspective can be very difficult for you to do on your own, especially if you haven't changed your site for a while or you have invested a great deal of emotional capital into your site. The emotional side of things gets a little messy when you begin to hear the feedback. Too many times our websites become like our children, "They're perfect as they are". But when you land on another person's site, all too often the flaws are screaming at you the moment the screen has loaded.
We often forget that our websites are just as much a "physical" storefront as our actual physical locations. If you do have a physical location you tend to have it set up one way and it stays that way for a long time. Of course, that does help when your customers come to your store or your site, as they are familiar with where things are and can find them quickly.
With a physical site it can be difficult to track where your customers are going and if they are finding what they are looking for. With the power of web analytics that can be loaded on your site, you have the ability to track your customers' moves throughout your site. If you take the time to read the reports available to you, the information can help you determine what needs to be done to drive more sales or actions within your site.
Below are 8 key questions to ask yourself - or better yet, have a friend sit down and ask them for their feedback with regard to these questions.
  1. Where do your eyes go first?

    You only have a few seconds to capture the attention of your audience ... make sure they're seeing something important. Many studies have been conducted that show a "heat map" of where our eyes go when we first look at a page. These maps show a pattern that resembles a large letter "F". Starting at the top left of the page, our eyes will typically scan down the left side and then across the top and then another scan across the middle from left to right. So what do you have in these areas that you want your customers to know about you and your products?
  2. Can you tell what the website is about?

    Again, you only have a few seconds to communicate your unique value, so be clear and compelling. Headlines should be in larger fonts, and you should use sub-headings that capture their attention. Use colors and test to see what is working and what isn't working so you can maximise your impact. Do you have something that will create a desire in your visitor to stay on the site? What is it?
  3. Is important information above the fold?

    Make sure your opt-in forms and Unique Selling Proposition are available without scrolling down. The "fold" comes from the newspaper publishing industry where the paper was folded in half and what ever was "above the fold" was the most important, and the best information to compel you, the reader, to buy their paper. Your website is no different. The "fold" is what you see without scrolling down your web page. This is the most valuable real estate on your site. Are you making the most of your content above the fold?
  4. Are the benefits highlighted?

    Your visitors want to quickly learn "what's in it for them". Spell out the benefits clearly on the homepage. This is when knowing who your customer is, what they looking for, and why they have come to your site comes into play. If you don't know the answers to these questions, then how will you know what benefits you need to highlight? And are the right benefits highlighted?
  5. Is there a clear call to action?

    If they like what they see, prospects need to know what to do next. It can be to buy now, start a free trial, or simply download a free report. Choose one and then "bait the hook" with something that is really juicy and very desirable for your visitor to compel them to take the action you have placed before them.
  6. Are the colors and font distracting?

    Jarring colors, quick animation, and gaudy fonts can really be distracting. If your visitors are distracted, they'll click away. Too often we as site owners and site developers want to focus on the super cool things that we can do with our website without asking whether we are driving the visitors toward the desired action or driving them away before they take action.
  7. Do they feel personally connected?

    Consumers want to buy from people, not machines. Connect with your prospects by being honest, straightforward, and using a conversational style. It is so easy to forget that machines aren't buying anything, humans are needed to make any real transaction and humans still yearn for the relationship with those they are transacting with. They want to feel safe. There are many ways to do this and often it isn't with a quick type of sales pitch but starting slowly and building that relationship of trust to allow the customer to move ahead with confidence. So how are you connecting with your customer?
  8. Are there links to social media?

    Many people want to do a little more research before buying. Linking to social media sites gives your potential customers another glimpse into your company (and perhaps a few testimonials from other customers). This is the component of social proof and ties into the preceding question in making your customer feel safe in making their decision. Social proof speaks to the deepest emotional component of decision making and confirms the decision the consumer has already made. 
Once you determine a few areas where you can improve, develop a plan to start implementing changes. You don't have to do them all at once - just do a few at a time until you have a website that really converts.

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