Question: Where is the best place to hide a needle?
Answer: Not in a haystack.
The truly best place to hide a needle is in a pile of other needles. One needle looks just like all the other needles, and it becomes impossible for you to determine which one is the one you are looking for.
Unfortunately, this little nugget of information is lost on many web site designers when it comes to organizing the information on the sites they create. Seems they take all the information on a site and mix it up into one pile of a design, making it quite challenging for anyone to find the bit of information they need. Poor data delivery may be one of the most overlooked web site shortcomings.
Looking for Just One Thing…
Most people visit a site looking for one small tidbit of information. They may be shopping for one item in particular or searching for your company phone number. They may be looking for your return policy or who your corporate officers are. They may have followed a link to your site or just typed the URL from something they read offline.
Whatever the case, most have a vision of what they are seeking and want to be able to find it. Jupiter Communications conducted a study last year that found 68 percent of people were seeking one particular thing each time they surfed the web. That’s a large chunk of people surfing with a mission, and if your site is on their mission list, you can bet they want to be able to find what they want quickly and easily.
Little or No Attention Span
Today’s Internet users have little patience. They expect immediate results. This is definitely true when applied to surfing. And this is why we have the “three-click rule.”
This little rule states that if someone can’t find their piece of information within three clicks of entering your site, they leave. A few years ago, I analyzed the traffic logs of over one-hundred corporate sites. I watched where people came into a site and how long they stayed once they got there. What I found was that over 75 percent of the visits lasted less than three clicks, i.e., three pages within the site. It is therefore vital to capture your visitors’ attention and direct them to what they are looking for immediately.
Get Yourself a Traffic Cop
If you only have three clicks to garner attention and want to get visitors to what they seek, you probably will have to use some tools to make that happen. These tools can take on many forms, but they all have one underlying theme: Keep it simple to use and quick to deliver.
People don’t want to learn some fancy new system just to complete one information-gathering task. So one of the best tools you can use is a categorized search engine within your site. Categorizing your search engine allows someone to find the area they are looking for very efficiently. This is especially useful for large sites with many sections and hundreds of pages.
Your product or company department could set up the categories of the search. You could even create subcategories if your site demands this level of detail, making it even easier for someone to find data quickly. This search engine can function as a traffic cop for your site, allowing people to find what they want, when they want it.
Getting people to the information they are seeking may be one of the things you have not given a lot of thought to. But it could be a grave obstacle to your online success. Analyze your log reports and determine how long people stay on your site, then determine if your site can deliver the information people want within that time frame. If it can’t, you will need to make your site a better information delivery tool.