Now you’re ready to move on to the next level. Again, this post barely scratches the surface, but it does provide you with some additional, important areas to consider when looking at your site’s usability.
1) Explain what you do.
I’m amazed at the number of sites that simply do not tell visitors what it is they actually do very clearly on their homepage. It’s almost as if they assume that every visitor is already fully in-the-know before ever coming to the site. News flash! Most first-time visitors are ignorant of who you are and what you do!
Every visitor that comes to your site needs to be able to quickly and easily figure out what you’re about. Don’t bury that information on an “About Us” page or in some vague mission statement. Make it obvious!
If you believe that only industry knowledgeable people visit your site, you’re wrong. Knowledgeable people may be your primary audience, and they may even be the source of the bulk of your income, but even knowledgeable people still need to know they have found a site that will meet their needs. If people cannot figure out exactly what you do, how can you expect to turn them into customers?
2) Give yourself a voice.
Have you ever been around a group of people and suddenly you hear one voice that stands out above the rest, not because it’s louder but because of the way the person talks? It might be the person’s accent or word usage or even speech pattern, but something about that voice is unique. Once you become familiar with it, you automatically know who’s speaking the next time you hear it. Your website should be no different.
Giving your content a unique “voice” helps you stand out from your competition. Done right, your voice is exclusive to you and you alone, and it gives your audience something to remember you by when compared to the other sites they have visited.
All things being equal, having a unique voice gives you an edge and an advantage. It tells customers that you’re different, and when they are choosing between you and an equal competitor, that may be the advantage that makes them choose you over the bland others.
3) Follow up and follow through.
Great communication is the key to having a successful business. If you’re letting leads, calls, emails, or inquiries fall through the cracks, you’re throwing money away. Good follow up has many forms: return phone calls, follow-up phone calls, follow-up emails, auto-responders, and confirmation emails, just to name a few. Each of these areas must be constantly analyzed to ensure you are being as effective as possible.
When it comes to following up, little things can make a big difference. What you say to potential customers, as well as when or how you say it, tells them a lot about what it will be like to do business with you. Customers need to know you will care just as much after the sale happens as they do before. If you don’t seem to care before the sale, they won’t believe you’ll care after the sale.
Great follow-through after the sale tells customers you still care about them because you’re proving it! That’s great repeat business generation right there.
4) Structure your navigation.
On far too many websites, the site navigation is cluttered and disorganized, and it doesn’t help drive potential customers to the pages that will give them the information they need. One of the biggest mistakes people make is creating site navigation that links to just about every page on the site. That’s far too many options!
If you have a large site, heck, even if you have a small site, try to pare your navigation down to as few elements as possible. It’s okay to have a dozen links or so in your navigation, but be sure they are organized in a way that helps visitors easily choose the right page.
Implementing structured navigation makes it that much easier for visitors to quickly find the pages that are most interesting to them. The less they have to think (and search) the better.
5) Build a sitemap.
When you have a large site, sometimes important pages can get buried in your navigation. It’s generally not a good idea to have a catch-all navigation that links to every page on your site. The solution is to make the navigation as intuitive as possible and build a sitemap.
HTML sitemaps give your visitors an easy way to find any page on your site quickly without searching. It only takes one click to get to the sitemap and a quick glance to find the page they want to see.
The better organized your sitemap is, the better it is for the visitor. Not all visitors use a sitemap, of course, but those who do find them to be invaluable to finding what they want quickly, without having to make numerous clicks through a deep navigation structure. The sooner you get your visitors to the right information, the more likely you are to get a conversion.
6) Include a site search box.
Having a “search this site” feature can work both for or against you, depending on how well it is implemented. If your site search doesn’t produce excellent results, then you’re better off not having one at all. If visitors search via your search box and don’t find the results they want, you have just lost a sale, even if you have the product.
If your search cannot produce relevant results 100% of the time, then it’s causing you to lose sales. It’s as simple as that. You’re far better off having your visitors find your products through navigation or a sitemap than you would be if a poorly executed search bar misleads them.
However, if you do have a great site search that gives perfect results every time, this can be a great way to help visitors find specific products, features, or information quickly without having to scan a bunch of pages. This search data can also be helpful in telling you what people are looking for so you can better promote those areas. Better access and promotion of your products and services means more sales.
7) Use consistent formatting.
As a whole, all your site pages should be similarly formatted. While some homepages do look a bit different than the other internal pages, it is important to carry consistency from one page to the next. This means that your primary navigation should not change from one page to the next, nor should your footer, page layout, color, etc. Your visitors expect consistency from page to page.
When your pages are consistent from one page to the next, visitors are able to figure out where and how to get the information they need, and they navigate better. When you don’t have that kind of consistency, the on-site experience can be quite jarring, and this can ruin the experience for visitors. Any bad experience is bad for sales.
9) Add unique product information.
If you sell many of the same products as other sites on the Internet, chances are good that you may have the same product description information as the other sites. This is almost universally true if you post boilerplate product descriptions from the manufacturer. While this may at least provide relevant product information, it doesn’t provide any information that makes your product stand out among the competition.
Just as you want to give your site a unique voice, you want to give your descriptions a personal touch. Describe the product from your unique perspective. Tell shoppers about things that you feel are particularly unique or useful about each product, or tell them anything else you think they might want to know. Sell them using emotion, not just facts! The more unique information you provide, the more you set yourself apart from all the other companies.
10) Fix your checkout process.
I’ve never come across a shopping cart or a checkout process that didn’t need to be fixed in some way or another. Amazon is constantly testing their shopping processes, and they are always in search of a better way to present a product or improve the conversion process. You may not realize it, but poor shopping and checkout processes lead to significant abandonment rates. Shoppers start orders, but then they don’t complete them.
Make sure that your checkout process includes as few steps as possible. Every click that visitors are forced to make creates an opportunity for them to flee. Studies show that drop-off rates increase as the checkout process clicks increase! Streamline your checkout process by reducing the amount of information that is needed, adding calls to action, placing related products in strategic locations, and making the entire ordering process easier.
Working on each of these conversion optimization areas is bound to improve your customer interaction and conversion rate. If you can simply improve your conversion rate, the same number of customers each month will result in increased sales, and any increase in traffic will increase sales exponentially!
Image Credit: Shutterstock / benchart