If you are looking to make a better experience for your website visitors and increase traffic to your site, the following 4 areas are a great place to start.
Getting someone to visit your site is half the problem. What they do once they get to your site in your control that’s why you need to think like a visitor when creating your website.
Believe it or not some of the best websites for news are the worst to navigate. I think they think of themselves and not a visitor. Yes, they are mobile friendly and have a new design but the functionality and effectiveness are not easy.
Today will be one of those posts where I show and tell the difference between websites found through search rankings and sites that are accessed directly. It makes a difference to also understand the strategy/goals behind the site.
So, lets dig a little deeper today as I am going to show you some of these sites and how I came to my conclusion.
Create Your Homepage: Think Like A Visitor
Applying The Rule of Thirds
I am not a professional photographer but I do understand the rule of thirds when it comes to taking a picture. Darren Rowes explains it best, “The basic principle behind the rule of thirds is to imagine breaking an image down into thirds (both horizontally and vertically) so that you have 9 parts.”
In the example below, one picture is off balance and you’ll notice it when the grids appear. Do you see it?
It’s an awesome picture. The one on the left is aesthetically pleasing while the one on the right does not look natural according to the brains symmetry.
So why is the rule of thirds important in web design?
Not every web designer follows the rule of thirds. It is more of a guideline to help guide the visitor to a specific focal point on the page. Today there are a lot of fads within web design, for example, a mobile friendly or responsive design, big headlines above the fold, a hero image, calls to actions, and social sharing options.
For news websites, I find many difficult to navigate and want to hit the “Back” button right away but I don’t. I mainly stay because I want to read the news but I’m forced to look at bad design. It’s a good example of great content, poor design.
The NBC news website went through a redesign recently. NBC was trying to separate themselves from their competitors and Microsoft roots so instead of tidying up their existing website they opted to go for an entire new look. Take a look:
Let’s apply the rule of thirds.
Naturally your eyes gravitate towards the image in the middle on the old site to the left, but on the new site to the right, your eyes go to the upper left making the entire page seem off center.
Yes, the new design is modern and responsive and the old layout has too much information in a small place, so what one do you think is more aesthetically pleasing to your eyes?
Most readers are visual, looking for big images and headlines. It’s just the habit we have online to skim through topics to the important parts. Heck, you are likely scanning this right now and don’t even know it. So how do we solve this problem?
Tell Your Visitor What They Should DO Next and Guide Them Visually.
1. First Impressions Count
You only have seconds to make a first impression on a visitor and it’s all visual. They are judging you on their initial emotional experience.
The emotional experience meets visitor expectations:
- If they were expecting..
- A service site, does it look professional?
- An entertainment site, does it look fun?
- A product site, does it look like a catalog?
- A blog site, does it have a collection of posts?
Demonstrate best practices for visitors:
- Does the page load quickly?
- Is it the correct color scheme?
- Do you have readable fonts?
- Does your header have content in expected places?
Take a look at the screenshot below and notice the headline and call-to-action. They are prominent and above the fold (that means you don’t have to scroll down).
The headline tells the visitor what they do and the big yellow button makes it easy for the visitor to take the next step.
2. Compelling Propositions
Because the homepage of your site receives the bulk of your traffic and knowing that 50% of people will leave your site after viewing just one page, your homepage needs to be compelling.
You can do this by clearly conveying your proposition – you have 5 seconds.
Does your proposition answer these 3 questions:
- What can I do here?
- How is it special?
- Is it for me?
Your proposition is clear, simple, and speaks directly to the visitors problem. You can do this by images and compelling headlines and brief supporting text. Remember your visitor is still scanning and actually hasn’t read anything yet.
The best home page convinces visitors to stop looking. They stop and say “Wow, This is just what I was looking for!”
3. Build Trust
If the visitor has made it more than 5 seconds on your site it’s time to give them reasons to trust you. Offer something of value such as social proof or premium content.
Trust is both conscious and subconscious to the visitor because they have not made up their minds.
You can help gain additional trust by conveying the following best practices:
What your endorsements should include:
- Professional degrees or Certifications
- Industry Awards
- Real Press Coverage
Social proof is:
- Testimonials or Case Studies
- Client logos
- Pictures of you or staff
The cool thing online is that when working on the web you get an infinite scroll to work with. It’s easier to scroll down rather than jump through a series of hoops and maze of links.
Nearly in all cases you should include pictures of case studies, testimonials, and of you so that your visitor can see him or herself as one of your clients or that they feel like they know you.
The best thing you can do on your homepage is give clear reasons to trust you and your proposition.
4. Action: What To Do Next
Once a visitor has made it this far on your site, it’s time to help him engage in your site. Tell him what to do next. Check out the follow best practices for effective calls to action:
Your calls-to-action guide visitors to take the next step and include:
- Clicking through to something interactive like a quote calculator or a personal visual experience
- Clicking through to read more details that address their needs
- Submitting their email address in exchange for premium content or a helpful download
- Following your social media page
- Chatting with you live
- Submitting a form to request a call back
- Making a purchase
You know your customers best so only you can decide what they should do after landing on your website. Keep it simple and don’t offer choices because too many choices leads to hesitation and ultimately the “back” button.
If your visitors wanted a buffet they would’ve have gone to the Golden Corral. They aren’t American Pickers looking for a hidden treasure.
They want you to hold their hand and guide them through the experience.
My best advice is to keep your homepage clean and simple with a compelling call-to-action.
More Than Content
If you’re paying to drive targeted traffic to your website, make sure that you have a converting landing page that applies the rule of thirds.
To be successful, you need to incorporate good design elements, headlines, and copy that guides visitors in a sequence. Remember to build rapport by creating trust and guiding the visitor along the way. You need to think like them.
There is nothing magical about web design, it’s simply aligning with your buying persona’s. Follow these steps, don’t feel that you need to get it perfect, and watch your visitors convert to great customers in your business.
Hey, thanks for the great read. Now what should I do?
Print out a copy of your website’s homepage and sit down with your staff and your web designer to discuss ideas of how you can improve. You can also find out what your most popular web page is and take a peak at how visitors are interacting with it.
Use heatmap software on your website to identify visitor behavior, for example.
Another great idea would be to take a look at what your competition is doing and get creative to set yourself apart from them in the marketplace. Just don’t think success happens overnight, it takes many design rounds, headlines, and testing and tracking, testing and tracking, testing and tracking!