Published by Patrick on 01 May 2008
If you want your website to generate any sort of results, there are 3 questions a visitor must be able to answer within the first 5 seconds. If they can’t, their interest will stall and they’ll probably leave your site.
1. Why am I here?
Visitors must have a clear idea of what you do as soon as they chance upon your site. No delays. No explanations necessary. They need to take one look at your homepage and understand what you do. In the case of blogs (where a visitor may first stumble upon your site on a page OTHER than the homepage), make sure your page header explains who you are and what you do.
This may seem like simple advice but you might be surprised how few companies have this initial step nailed down. Not only are their sites unclear as to their purpose, but the executives within some of these companies can’t easily explain what they do either! Major problem. Successful businesses have many things in common but one of them is that they KNOW what they do and what they sell. If you don’t have that figured out yet, stop everything and deal with that problem first.
2. Where do I look?
Your homepage is NOT a content page. It’s a portal. It’s only purpose is to explain what you do and direct visitors to something that will be of value to them. Most homepages have 15 or 20 different options; links everywhere! Don’t do it. Your visitors won’t be able to navigate your site. In fact, research has shown that internet browsers only look at simple 1 or 2-word buttons. The longer explanations fail completely. Check out this fascinating post on eye tracking to learn more about that.
Your homepage should have only a small handful of options. The visitor should be given a basic choice right away, allowing them to navigate to something of direct value to them. Think about a site with two large buttons reading “I am a man” and “I am a woman” on the homepage. Yes, this is an extreme example but you get the point. Immediately, the visitor can make a simple choice and navigate to an area of the site specifically designed for them.
3. What do I do?
This goes hand-in-hand with question #2. Not only must people know where to look but they must also know what to do. Always tell your website visitors what to do next. Every single page on your website should link back to something else. No page should be left hanging in the wind, all by itself. Always give your visitors a few options of where to click next.
Bottom line; when people come across your website, they are in the submissive position. They will receive whatever your website presents. They have no control over what your website will present; only YOU do. That’s a huge opportunity. You can present a small timid online presence or you can present a huge overwhelming presence – your choice. So project some confidence and give your visitors the direction they need to get the most out of your website. Tell them what to do. Make it easy and tell them where to go. They will respond, in many cases, by doing exactly as you say!