Business Websites should tell visitors what’s in it for them.

Author:  Nola Young

For years I have sifted through Web sites that don’t either get to the point, or don’t say the obvious. So now, after looking for a few minutes, and not finding what I want, I simply go to the Contact Us page for a phone number and skip over the rest. “So many pages, not enough time” is what I say.   If the graphics are compelling, I might take a second look, but the reality is, the more text there is on the site, the less apt I am to stay.

Question:

Considering how much time and money it requires to get your business Web site up and running, you don’t want your potential customers to leave after only spending a few minutes on your site.   So what is it that keeps them on your site and brings them back again?

Answer:

When you think about it, the Internet is simply another way of communicating a message.    It has its own set of unspoken rules, however, and you need to understand and adhere to them in order to capture and hold your customer’s interests.

Think about your experience of reading a book.  If you are like me, you will settle into a comfortable chair, turn off all other thoughts and delve deeply into reading bliss.  Nothing can take me away from finishing the page before I want to.   This is because, when we read a book, we are generally taking time for ourselves and use it as a mode of relaxation.

When it comes to other communications, like email for example, I prefer the messages to be short and to the point.  Those that aren’t tend to get stored for a later date and may never get read.  Why?  Because I am typically at work when I get them, and the old saying that “time is money” is never more true.  The phone is ringing and there are a million demands.

In the same way, there is certainly never enough time to read through every Web site that you come across.

The lesson here is that your own Web site should not be treated as though it were a book report, because most visitors do not want to take the time to read every line.  Web site visitors tend to be goal oriented.  They want to find what they are looking for quickly and easily.

The amount of time your visitor will stay at your site will be minimal. If you don’t pay attention to this, you may lose the opportunity to catch their interest. Clearly putting pages and pages of text on your site will not do it.   Ask yourself what will your potential customer need and figure out a way to answer that.

Here are a few tips:

  1. Always think about what action you want the visitor to take.  Don’t just tell them about a product or service, ask them to purchase one.
  2. Make your first page brief and list the key focuses of your site. You must first capture your visitor’s attention and then generate further desired actions such as reviewing and purchasing your products.
  3. Use action words, like “click here”, “order now”, and “sign up” to entice your visitor to move to the next step.
  4. Offer an way to subscribe for an e-newsletter so that visitors may sign up for a monthly email from you.  This is an excellent way to have visitors come back to your site.

Here are two examples of Web sites that I feel are at the opposite ends of the spectrum.  The first is the Bell Canada Web site at www.bell.ca.

I recently visited this site to get information about their high-speed Internet services.  While it was visually pleasing, I sifted through pages and pages of information without finding an answer to my questions.  They had mechanisms set up that would lock me into a page, so I had to reboot my browser just to go back to the previous page.  When I clicked on pricing I had to fill out pages of information before I could even get a price.  After two tries, I decided to call 310-bell.   The experience I had there is for a completely different column.

The second site I want to mention is one I came across purely by accident.   Lois Raats Counselling of Waterloo, a personal coaching business has a site at www.coachlois.com that gets straight to the point.   Raats quickly and clearly states how she can help her visitors.  She presents her vision and mission statements on the first page. Very quickly visitors know if this site is for them.

Since testimonials are a big part of the success of her business, she puts these right up front.  Through them you learn more about her services.  Overall I was very impressed with the approach of this site.

So don’t forget to answer the “What’s in it for me?” question on your Web site.  Your primary goal should be to answer this question, quickly and effectively.