One of the great things about web marketing is that we can test our assumptions. One of the less appealing characteristics of humankind is that we are often unwilling to do so. That’s why I love studies that analyze user behavior. Reading them makes me step back and look at the websites I’m working on with a new eye. Sometimes it’s to challenge my assumptions; other times it’s to remind myself of basic principles that can get lost when you are up you your eyeballs in decisions.
Conversion XL’s article “Why Simple Websites Are Scientifically Better ” highlights some great studies that reinforce our notions of what makes a good website. Here are a few takeaways that are particularly relevant for small businesses.
You have 1/20th of a second to make an impression.
I’ve been telling clients for years that they only have a second or two to capture the interest of a visitor landing on their site, but now I learn I’ve been overstating how much time they have by several orders of magnitude!! This particular study is referring to judgments about site “beauty” but the fact that users make any judgments at all about a website that quickly should humble us all.
Don’t be original.
Users like websites that look and behave according to expectations, and those expectations are based on the way other sites in their category look and function. Yes, there are trends and changes in web design, but if you own a small business, leave the cutting edge to the folks with deep pockets (or a death wish) and focus on doing what everybody else does, only better.
Even rocket scientists have limits.
Our brains can only handle 5-7 chunks of information in working memory, so if you’ve got a navigation list of 15 items, I’m already in overload, even if I sent a person to the moon. How many choices are you are asking visitors to make on each page? You may not want to put buttons for “Try our demo” “Download our White Paper” “Buy Now” and “Sign up for our Newsletter” all front and center on the home page. Think about one, or maybe two, actions you’d like the visitor to take on each page and focus on those. You’ll get more pageviews and more conversions.
The more visually complex a website, the lower its visual appeal.
Again I quote Thoreau: Simplify, simplify! It’s very tempting to try to cram as much information as you can onto each page or to create a stunning design as intricate as an Italian tapestry, but don’t. Leave your ego at the door, think about what you want the visitor to do on your site, and design around those actions. It’s simple, but not easy.
Review the studies, test your assumptions, and keep working to make your site simpler, clearer, better. The results show up on the bottom line.
If you need a fresh eye to look at your site and help you prioritize the steps you need to take to increase traffic and improve conversions, contact us to learn how we can help.