I spend a lot of time trawling the world wide web, (and web it is!) for info and inspo, but mainly for homespo. When I stumble upon a great website I often find it hard to contain my excitement, for this does not happen often. I imagine the feelings evoked within me, are not dissimilar to what desert-wanderers feel after walking in the hot desert for weeks without water, and then finally finding an abundant oasis. Only my desert is filled with neon flashing lights, heinous fonts and flash banners that threaten me with epileptic fits and panic attacks.
When I land on these hot pots of overstimulation and anxiety, my trigger finger hits the back button faster than I can throw a hot potato. Do you experience the same thing?
So what it is that irks us so much? What is it that prompts us to retreat back to the safety of the previous page? Lets dive deep into some of the common reasons people leave websites. Feel free to use the following list to turn your website into an abundant little oasis for all the desert wanderers out there.
- BEING OBSTRUSIVE
Obtrusive use of sound and audio. There’s nothing worse than sound automatically playing out of your screen when you least expect it, especially when the office is full and your speakers are maxed out. I also find that some newsletter opt-ins are obtrusive. Don’t force people to signup or subscribe to your newsletter without first letting them wander your site for a while. Jumping up into their face as they first arrive on your site is not the best way to start a relationship with your customer. You need to think about becoming your customer’s friend. In the real world, you don’t meet someone and then instantly invite them to your 30th birthday in 3 years time, its just not the beginnings of a healthy friendship. Go in easy, act cool and nurture the relationship.
- BORING CONTENT
Writing for the web is vastly different from writing for print. The world is in a hurry and people tend to skim online, they search for the key points and ignore all of your waffle. Content should be short, sweet and organised. You’ve got less than 5 seconds to hook your visitors when they land on a new page, so grab their attention by being clear, concise and compelling. Your website copy should be aiming to meet your customer’s needs and wants, appealing to their desires, helping them live better lives, and whilst you’re at it, you should be entertaining them too. Unless you’re an especially good writer, consider using a pro. Enlist the help of a copywriter to write or at least edit your content. They’ll be able to make it more SEO friendly as well, knowing which keywords to feature to help move you up the ranks in search engines.
Have you ever landed on a page that said “last updated 1999″? Its kinda cringe worthy, right?! Or do you follow a blogger and visit their page every couple of months only to find the same old content? Not only does this imply that you haven’t been bothered to update your site but users may feel that your website is no longer of use to them. The online world changes so fast that old information is often irrelevant. When setting up a blog one of the decisions you’ll have to make is whether or not to show the post date – this is a deal breaker. If you’re not going to be posting often, (weekly or fortnightly), I’d recommend against revealing your post date.
- HOMEPAGE HOOK
This is a big one. When a visitor lands on your website, you have three to five seconds to attract their attention, get your message across, AND convince them to spend more time there. This is what we call the Blink Test.
So how to do this? How do we hook them?
Here are a few ways;
• Make the homepage stand out by keeping your page design clutter-free (lots of white space)
• Super tight branding, professional design and polished copy – these will all quickly establish trust and loyalty
• Attractive and on-brand imagery – remember, a picture speaks a thousand words
• Tell people who you are and what you do in your primary headline. Make it as concise as possible, make it big, and make it quirky, fun, interesting and reflective of YOU
• Convince the user to stay on your website, or even better, get in touch with you (provide clear call-to-actions)
• Add a sentence or two that communicates your value proposition (key benefits that distinguish you from your competitors)
- FRUSTRATING NAVIGATION
A great website without great navigation, is like a sports car with no engine. You need to take your user on a journey, show them the way. If someone gets lost on your website they generally won’t stop and ask for directions, they’ll just leave. Navigation on your website is what gets readers around on the page and the site, make sure this is intuitive and simple. Going overboard with overwhelming drop-downs and mega menus is not a great idea. My recommendation is to limit your menu items to eight or less. Again, I can’t stress enough, the world is in a hurry – don’t send people on a goose chase for information. Your navigation isn’t really the place to get too creative, of course its great to put your spin on page titles, but try not to be too out there, as users expect to see words like “shop”, “contact” and “about”. If these important pieces of the puzzle are hard to find, you are literally just one click away from losing a potential customer.
- UNPROFESSIONAL DESIGN AND IMAGERY
It is essential that you invest in some quality photography. You don’t need loads of photos, but make sure the few that you use are of a high standard and reflect the essence of your brand. High quality product images are especially important for online retailers (those of you with e-commerce stores), at the end of the day, your pictures are what will be selling your product and getting you well on your way to that holiday in the Maldives.
- SLOW LOADING PAGES
The thing about speed is that people only notice it when it’s absent. You wanna know a scary fact? The average internet user will wait only four seconds for a page to load, and three seconds if they’re on a smartphone. Its crazy! People don’t have time to wait for slow content to download; you’re probably the same! Just like our morning coffee, we need our information hard and fast. Google has even admitted to the fact that your website loading speed helps or hinders your search engine ranking. So what to do about it? Luckily, you can speed up your website without sacrificing its good looks. Your website designer/developer should be all over this and will most likely have a tonne of tricks up their sleeve to speed up your page load times.
- IT NEEDS TO BE MOBILE FRIENDLY
In early 2014, internet usage on mobile devices exceeded PC usage. This means that nowadays, there are more people viewing your website on their phone, than on their computer. You may have heard the term “responsive” when talking about mobile sites, basically having a responsive website means that no matter what size screen someone is viewing your website on, it will display perfectly for that particular screen size, (so its going to shrink or expand and reconfigure). Having a responsive website is no longer simply a nice feature or luxury anymore, it is an absolute necessity.
- SIMPLE DESIGN IS KING
Allow for ample white space and don’t overload your site with ridiculously complex design, animation, or special effects – its going to cause head spins and most likely people will leave your site. Uncluttered layouts allow viewers to focus on your message. The best way to keep visitors glued to their screen is through valuable content, good organisation and amazing design. Keep your site simple, well organised and beautifully designed.