I was asked to review a website for a real estate agent in Arizona. Upon visiting the site, I was immediately confused and overwhelmed. It is not an exaggeration to say there were 50 messages on the front page, all screaming for attention. The result was a site where every piece of content was minimized.
This is a common mistake. We have a lot to say, and most of it is important. As business owners, we offer many services; we want to sell them all. But visitors to your web site do not care. If you overwhelm them with information, they will not know where to start, they will not expend the energy to figure out where to start, and they will leave your site with malice.
As you consider your website, these three observations will help you identify what changes will increase your website’s ability to meet your business objectives:
- There is a phenomenon called banner blindness. As consumers of web content, we train ourselves to avert our eyes from anything that looks like an advertisement. Jakob Nielsen wrote a must-read article illustrating the ineffectiveness of fancy formatting.
- Suppose a website visitor’s attention could be given a point value of 10. You have these 10 points to distribute to different parts of your site. You should identify your core objectives and distribute these 10 points in proportion to their importance. The site design should give prominence in scale with the distribution of points. Your front page will be loose content, but what remains will be effective.
- Ultimately, what is described in the two points above are aspects of a philosophy called “user centered design”. You must look at the site from the users perspective. Users determine whether they think a site will provide for their need within the first 2 seconds of their visit. If they don’t see immediate hope, they quickly click the back button. What is it that your users are looking for? This is very different than what you want to tell your users. Unless you first answer your user’s questions and build credibility in doing so, they will not care what you have to say.
If you consider these points, you will realize that they are applicative to much more than your web design. They require a rethinking of your business model. Ultimately, your website is a reflection of your business. If your website is unfocused and ineffective, perhaps it is because the business it is representing needs purposeful direction.