If you were to hold a contest to find which site offers the best online deal for a new cell phone, which would win? The website targeting newcomers or the one with an established customer?
The answer is not so easy because people change. We lose trust. We change how we think and do things. We age.
Whenever it is difficult to come up with a topic to write about each week, I stop and listen to my world for hints. Since our websites are in sense simply extensions of us as individuals, groups of people, and businesses that reach even more people, I am able to see lessons for web design by studying how people act, react, feel, and what they want.
It doesn’t take a Master’s Degree in Neuroscience to see that the success of any website depends on understanding people. Human beings are curious. They love and invent new things that make their lives easier. They like to look good at certain times of their lives and other times they could care less about that. Their needs change. They are easily influenced. They feel things, even if they don’t actually see where that feeling is coming from. They are fickle, funny, frustrated and sometimes even frozen in time.
How can any website hope to please us?
I’m Breaking Up With You
The inspiration for this post came this morning. My house and property have been in the long process of being repaired and cleaned up. In addition to hired landscapers and the pool repair guy, my 20 year old son and two of his buddies work on and off as a team to do lifting and the jobs nobody else wants like tree stump removal. I know his buddies well. One is a Marine, one a pre-law student and my own son is a college student soon to be on his way to Marine boot camp.
The pre-law friend is going through a sad breakup with this longtime girlfriend. I’ve known these boys since they were little and they are like sons to me so I took a few minutes to listen to him tell me what happened. It’s the same old tale of being “too busy”. They are at different colleges and she suddenly ended the relationship. She was a cheerleader and he a football star at the local High School. He was accepted to play football at his college but was so traumatized by the breakup he quit the team.
What did I find in this real life moment that relates to website design?
The top reason why website owners request Internet Marketing services without any concern for their website design is because they believe their websites are fine as they are. Even if it was designed and built five or two years ago, they insist all is well and the only place to invest their budget is on more keyword research, links and social marketing.
The one constant knowable factor we have to work with as website owners, designers, developers and marketers is that people change. You and I are not the same persons we were last year or 10 years ago and we won’t be the same five years from now. We may know more about different topics and that means how we search for information changes because our vocabulary has been updated. Some of us are looking for “cloud” as those white fluffy objects in the sky above us, while others look for “cloud” computing and “cloud servers”. A large number of you are still looking for “software” at a time when some software development companies don’t use that word at all on their websites anymore.
People are Busy
By now it is known that people are in a hurry when they are browsing online. Some verticals like financial, taxes, healthcare and education can be designed for a slower pace because the tasks are more involved and require more information and thought. Ecommerce is fast paced and competitive at every level, from a global reach to a local target market. Online shopping sites have to be designed for busy people and most are not.
How do I know this?
Sliders. Those gigantic jumbo images that move as soon as the homepage loads. The other signal are homepages that load up one or more mammoth images that provide no information and no call to action.
A website that forces visitors to figure out what to do when they arrive is not a site for busy people.
I love to listen to people. I can listen to their stories all day. I’ve learned they don’t want my advice unless they ask for it and they don’t need to hear what happened to me in a similar situation. My son’s broken hearted friend and I talked about relationships between people with different interests and how sometimes opposites thrive, while other relationships would never survive if they didn’t have a lot in common. I didn’t say anything to him about what I’ve learned about relationships that came as a surprise.
People change. I’m not saying his girlfriend is not telling the truth. She’s a freshman and new to college life and she’s a very active outgoing young woman. My guess is that she’s away from home and our small town and thriving at school. Environments change us.
Circumstances change relationships too. I expected to marry my Lehigh University boyfriend whom I was dating when I was 20 years old. Soon after my 21st birthday, he graduated, moved on to law school in New York and broke up with me because he would be “too busy” learning to be a lawyer. I now understand that busy was the excuse and only way he could communicate what really mattered to him, and that was his needs changed because his circumstances did.
Website designs are most often designed for new relationships.
All new relationships are a big discovery. When we land on a web page from an advertisement we have a certain expectation about what will happen next and if that expectation is not met or there is a barrier thrown in our way, we move on.
Designing for regular visitors and customers is different because you are in a relationship with them and your goals now are to keep them interested and wanting more.
In Part Two next week I’ll provide usability and conversions support for established relationships in various types of websites. To increase conversions for first time visitors, I wrote an informative ebook on the topic, available for free download. Download and save The Secret to Natural Website Conversions now.