35% of visitors fail to achieve their goal when they visit company websites! By following 2 simple rules, you can increase your web-derived revenue by 1/3 or more!
Renowned website usability researcher, Jakob Nielsen, today (Nov 24) published results of his latest study. His test subjects used 139 websites. On average, they failed to find what they were looking for 35% of the time. Shockingly, 37% of users couldnt even find company location details!
What was surprising was that users didnt give up. They generally found the information they were after but they found it at a competitors site!
So how do you stop potential customers falling into the hands of your competitors? Nielsen is right when he suggests user research. Yes, its imperative that know what your users need at your site. But what he doesnt say is how to structure your website so it meets users needs.
There are two golden rules:
1) Write first, build later
2) Write to your customer
Write first, build later
The real message on most websites is in the writing. It makes sense, then, that the writing should determine the structure.
Unfortunately, this is not the case for most businesses. For them, the writing is an afterthought. They structure and design their website first, then try to fit the writing to the structure. This flies in the face of common sense. When you speak to someone, you structure your speech around your message. You dont decide on a structure, then change the message to suit!
For a truly usable website, you need to plan what you want to say before you create the site perhaps even write the whole thing. The message the writing should determine the structure.
Write to your customer
So how do you decide what to write?
Firstly, dont think, What do I want to say?. When youre writing a website, you have to think, What does my customer want to know?. Its a very subtle difference, but its the key to engaging writing. And thats what you want to do engage the customer.
Most customers will want to know the basics:
– What do you do?
– What benefit do you offer them?
– Why should they choose your service or product?
– Why should they choose your service or product and not your competitors?
– What does it cost?
– How can they contact you?
– Where are you located?
Your website has to communicate a lot of information. And to make matters worse, youre going to have limited screen real-estate. Ideally, your customer wont have to scroll especially on your homepage (all your information will fit within a single window). And you cant fill the whole screen with writing, either. The design and navigation elements take up about a third of the window, and you should leave a bit for white space (you dont want to overwhelm your customer). As a rule of thumb, you should expect to have about 1/3 of the window at your disposal for the writing.
Chances are, right now youre thinking, How am I going to fit it all in?. Well, thats where your writing skills come in. Choose your words very carefully
Websites can be an extremely powerful piece of marketing collateral. You can reach millions for just a few hundred dollars. Unfortunately, your competitors can do the same thing. Its a level playing field, but there are a lot of players. Its important that your thoughts are structured, otherwise your site will be a mess. If your message is clear, your site will be simple and easy to use. Its all in the words
8 More Reasons to Write for Your Audience
1) There are approximately 550 billion documents on the web
2) Every day another 7 million are added
3) Workers take so long trying to find information that it costs organisations $750 billion annually! (A.T. Kearney, Network Publishing study, April 2001)
4) Reading from a monitor is 25% slower than reading from paper. (Sun Microsystems, 1998)
5) Helpful content develops site loyalty. The average person visits no more than 19 websites in the entire month in order to avoid information overload. (Nielsen NetRatings in Jan 2001)
6) 79% of users scan read when online (Sun Microsystems, 1998)
7) Information gathering is the most common use of the Internet – 73% (American Express survey, 2000)
8) 48% of people use the Internet to find work-related information as opposed to 7% who use magazines. (Lyra Research, 2001)