When it comes to online marketing there is much emphasis placed on driving traffic to your website - and rightly so. After all, your website is useless unless people are visiting it. However, getting users to your website is just half of the battle – the other half is getting them to complete their journey satisfactorily. Exactly what you want your visitors to do will vary dependant on the purpose of your organisation and could include:
In order to ensure that your visitors complete your desired journey, there are several factors to consider.
The first thing to address when considering user journey is making it clear from the beginning exactly what the purpose of your site is. If a user has to spend lots of time digging around trying to figure out whether your site is going to be of use to them, they are likely to become frustrated and leave to seek what they require elsewhere. Perhaps the most common example of sites failing to make their purpose clear from the off, is ecommerce sites which do not have products for sale on the homepage. At the very least such sites should have obvious adverts or banners on the homepage, specifying that products can be bought from the site. Failure to do so can mean that a user landing on the homepage mistakenly assumes that they have found an information site, prompting them to leave. One of the most effective ways of communicating the purpose of your site is to have a short, but to the point tagline right under your organisations logo, which leaves no possibility of confusion in the user’s mind.
It may sound like an obvious point, but a clear and concise navigation plays a vital role in a site’s usability. This is especially important where you have a large number of products or assets available to users. The navigation bar should be split into sections and subcategories where required, following a logical arrangement. If products or assets are not positioned in the correct place, users will find it difficult to locate them and become frustrated.
The written content on any site plays a vital role in optimising keywords when it comes to search engines. With this in mind it can be tempting to place as many variations of your keywords in your landing page content, which can lead to large sections of text. Whilst it is understandable to want to increase your sites SEO visibility, you must also keep one eye on user experience. Content should be kept concise and informative, whilst of course including keywords that are likely to increase search engine visibility and drive traffic. You should also take care to avoid spammy content, which is an immediate turnoff to users and search engines alike. Where you feel that you have not included a satisfactory number of keyword variations on a specific landing page, additional text can be added under the fold. Content positioned here will still be seen by search engines, but is less likely to detract from the user experience.
Once a user has found their way to your site, you want them to feel reassured that they have found the right place to meet their requirements. A great way to breed user confidence is to make reference to any industry specific organisations that you are a member of, which, dependant on the purpose of your organisation, may include:
A well-positioned logo or badge on your site will serve your purpose. You may even wish to include a link to the relevant site, so that your user can do a little research into the value of each membership.
Once you have caught your users’ attention and they are satisfied that you can help fulfil their requirements, the next step is to guide them towards your ultimate goal. This should be done through an obvious call to action. So, if for example you want them to make a telephone enquiry, be sure to add some text that makes this obvious. And don’t forget to include your telephone number! In fact, if driving telephone enquiries is the main purpose of your site, it is advisable to have you telephone number at the top of every page on your site, as well as being included in any call to actions.
Where the purpose of your site goes beyond telephone enquiries, there are additional stages in the user journey to consider. If you have an ecommerce site, you need to do everything to ensure that the user completes their purchase. Or, if you are looking for users to become a member of your site or sign up to a newsletter, you must ensure that they complete the registration process. Whether your user is buying or registering, your aim is the same; deliver a quick and hassle free process that allows them to reach their goal. To achieve this you should only ask for information that is essential for you to be able to deliver what they want. Remove as many obstacles from the process that you can. It is also important to ensure that the positioning of your buttons is correct. Users expect the button that takes them on to the next stage to be on the right-hand side and the back button to be on the left. In addition, you should be confident that any data entered during the buying or registration stage is saved. There is nothing more frustrating for a user than clicking the back button to amend some details, to find that the information fields that they have just completed are now blank. User testing should be utilised after any changes are made to the site to check that everything is working as it should be and any bugs fixed.
The final and perhaps most important stage in delivering a good user journey is to monitor the performance of your site, with the aim of identifying any weaknesses - exactly how you do this again depends on the purpose of your site. Where you are looking to generate telephone enquiries, it could be something as simple as having a different telephone number on site to the number you display in your offline marketing. Alternatively, if you are looking to sell products or generate memberships, you should use a suitable program that allows you to monitor users’ journey through the buying or sign-up process and see where there is the biggest drop-off. This will indicate that there is an issue with this particular stage of the process, allowing you to take a closer look and make the required changes. Finally, you should use the information provided by Google Analytics to monitor the performance of your site. The system provides plenty of useful information that will allow you to assess the site as a whole and individual landing pages, including the number of visitors, the amount of time users spend on the site and bounce rates. All useful data that can be used to identify weaknesses in your site and guide as to where improvements need to be made in order to enhance user experience. Creative Commons image via kennymatic on Flickr