18 Feb 2014

A Great Website Gives Visitors What They Came For

When was the last time you purposely chose to visit a website just to not get what you came there for?

A “Free” download means you have to do something before you get it, just as OZ made Dorothy bring back the broom from the Wicked Witch. You may be requested to “share” on Facebook the website name along with their promotion before the download will begin.  It’s common to be required to provide your email and name to gain access to the download. Or perhaps, especially with technical eBooks, you must enter your company’s financials, position, number of employees and phone number before you are allowed access to the “free” download.

Content is not free.  For content providers to afford to keep up with the demands of delivering quality content, they need a way to pay their bills and they do it with advertisements the same way that print publications have always needed to.

The difference is that with the Internet, where we have just been to is constantly showing up wherever we go to next.  Yes, I looked into the Conversion Conference and yes, I’m shopping for new office furniture as noted here.
Advertisements on blog page
If you don’t have access to TV, you can wait and watch past shows on Netflix, pay for other services, or find a website that will let you watch them online.  From a user experience standpoint, the process to get free and on demand access is not always clear.

CNN presents “live TV” via their website.  If you own a TV and pay for cable, this gives you the opportunity to watch their news shows from a computer device.  Since some TV shows do not require cable to view online, however, the information provided by CNN is not enough.
CNN Live TV
When the red arrow is clicked, users are shown a list of cable companies that they must be customers of to be able to use CNN’s version.
List of cable companies
In contrast, another TV network does not require owning a TV to view their shows.  For example, “The Big Bang Theory” is free to watch on CBS anytime, as long as you don’t mind being interrupted by advertisements.  These advertisements are like commercials and there are as many as 5 in a row to watch before getting back to the show, but this just like watching commercials on TV.  For some of us, the freedom to crawl into bed with our laptop or mobile device and watch our favorite shows on our own time is worth paying the price of grabbing ice cream during the advertisements
Scene from Big Bang Theory
Today’s Web is a constant onslaught of irritants and most of them are designed to drive us away and keep us from getting what we want.

As a fan of Search Engine Journal, I signed up for their newsletter ages ago.  Despite that, I’m reminded every time I visit to subscribe.  All it would take is a tick box for “No thanks. Luv ya! Already did. It’s okay to turn this thing off”.
Search engine journal subscribe box
The practice of presenting tasks we are not ready for is a constant source of user aggravation and yet it continues to exist.  Some clothing sites will not allow visitors to see any products until they fill out their email address first.  Those who do offer a peek at the goods first will present the subscribe box within a few seconds of your arrival.

Most of us click these boxes away because we have not had the opportunity to look at the website before we choose to commit to getting any email from them.  Logically it would seem that these pop-ups do not convert and yet marketing people demand they be included.  As a usability analyst willing to make marketers happy, I make suggestions.

For instance, provide more information about what it is exactly your visitors are being asked to subscribe to.  How often does it arrive?  What’s in it?  Is it easy to unsubscribe?  In other words, these intrusive boxes are not about meeting KPI’s.  They should be about providing more reasons to like your site.


Why is liking your website the objective?

QuoteYour competitors may already provide the exact same gem people want, but they may do it in a non-invasive, friendly, engaging, secure, understandable way.

When you walk past store after store in a shopping mall, you already know in advance which stores are your favorites.  There may be three shops for diamond rings on one floor, two famous brand coffee shops, four bath and body stores, six women’s clothing stores on each side and department stores anchored on each end.  Not one of these stores has a salesperson planted at their doors demanding that you fill out a form with your personal information before you can enter.  None of them hides their products from their display windows until you first “like” them on Facebook.  When you purchase from one of the anchor stores, the cashier doesn’t suddenly announce to the entire shopping mall that you were just there and then lists each item you are carrying in your pretty shopping bag.

None of the store employees chases you out into the parking lot asking you to accept cookies so they can hit you with “stuff you might like” on your next visit.

The difference between your website and that of your competitors is in the details.   Your website success is based on how  well you establish good relationships based on trust, customer satisfaction and your ability to get your guests to what they need and want efficiently, effortlessly and painlessly.

Web design, with its infinite scrolling and responsive design creations, still has not mastered the medium with even the basics of a solid information architecture, understanding mental models, methods for engagement, sticky and brand loyalty.  When a new website opens, you can still hear a pin drop, but when a new famous food store opens up nearby, the traffic jams and filled parking lots are a joy to behold.

How will you open your website doors to your visitors this year?