People need direction.
Play any computer game in the world, and you’ll see what I mean. There’s an unwritten contract between the game players and the game developers – they give you visual clues, so that you know what you are supposed to do next. You know exactly what button to click to start playing, and you know what your next step is supposed to be.
In racing games you have large arrows guiding you around the track, in first person shooter games (like the Call of Duty franchise), your progress is limited to running in a specific direction. If you try to wander too far off course, you’ll hit unbreakable doors, large walls or in extreme cases, radioactive lakes. Even in sandbox games that give you unlimited freedom to do what you want, like Skyrim for instance, you still know what you need to accomplish to move the story line forwards and move on to the next chapter, even if you don’t have to do it.
Websites aren’t different from playing games (Gamification is, in fact, a huge factor in how things work today, but that’s for a different blog post).
When customers come to your website, they don’t want to spend hours figuring out what to do next. They don’t want to find out that you’ve used HTML 5 to disguise your ‘prices’ tab in a dollar bill, or move the mouse cursor around until they find the empty white space you’ve used to cleverly show off your portfolio. Customers, clients, leads, visits – whatever you call them, are all looking for clear directions that tell them what their next step should be. Are they supposed to download your software? Do you want them to sign up to your Facebook page? Perhaps all you want is for them to click the ‘I Do’ button?
Call to Action
You may have heard of the phrase ‘CTA’, or ‘Call To Action’. ‘Call to actions’ are what direct your visitor around your website. Think of them as signposts that tell the users what to do. Every page – and I mean every page - should have a CTA.
Let me take you offline for a minute, so that I can explain myself a bit better.
There are two sorts of people that can walk into your shop. Those that expect to be served – you need to tell them where the scarves are, or where the baby clothes are. They might come and ask you, or wait to be approached, but they won’t go looking by themselves. The other sort looks for themselves. They don’t want to be approached unless they really REALLY need it, and usually, if they can’t find something quickly, because, say, the baby clothes are mixed in with teenagers clothes, they might ask for help or they might leave.
Now let’s go back online, to your website.
People come to your online shop, to your website. We’ve already established that interacting with people online is a lot harder than it is in real life, for the obvious reasons. So your customers are more or less left to their own resources. The first sort might use your webform (which is ROBIN, of course ☺) but they certainly won’t go looking for themselves. If you haven’t got a clear call to action on your page, if they don’t know where to start looking for clothes, you’ve lost them to another shop with better design. The second sort will look for themselves, but if they can’t find it quickly, they are even more apt to leave without asking you for help, so you’ve lost those too.
In other words, not having a clear CTA, or a clear path for visitors to choose from, you can lose up to 75% of your hard-earned incoming traffic. Can you really afford to do that?
The answer is, of course, that you can’t. So how do you fix that? How do you reduce that 75%, if not to 0%, then to 50%, 35% or less?
What can be done?
Take a look at your homepage. Even better, ask someone else to do so, and answer these questions:
1. What’s the first thing that they see?
2. What would they click?
3. What would they do next?
Now, look at your homepage, and think what do YOU want people to do on your site?
• Do you want them to see the ‘sales’ page first?
• To check out the vast array of hats you have?
• Sign up for your newsletter, because that’s your best channel for promoting your new line of Apple products?
The final step is to look in your website analytics (if you don’t have any, get your webmaster to install Google Analytics – it’s a free service), and take a look at the content of interactions and how people interact with your website. What are they searching for, when they find your website? What are they searching for when they are IN your website? (For example, if lots of people are searching for ‘shopping cart’, then your shopping cart is hard to find). What questions do they ask? And so on.
These are the first steps in determining:
a) What you want people to do
b) What people actually do
c) How to get people to do what you want
And that, my friends, leads to better customer experience. Which in turn leads to sales.
Isn’t that why we set up our website in the first place?