Your Web site is like a typical family’s house: most of the traffic doesn’t come and go through the front door. Instead, the informal side — patio, back door, or garage entry — is used more often.
With the growth of traffic sent from search, e-mail, RSS, widgets, social bookmarking, comparison shopping sites, and blogs, less site traffic comes directly through the home page. This means each page must act as an entry point and provide relevant information to visitors to drive them further into the site or offer ways to connect with you later.
Regardless of whether you have a content or an e-commerce site, you must take the visitor point of view when designing navigation aides. Online, most non-entertainment users are goal-oriented and looking to meet their information needs efficiently. From a marketing perspective, this translates into offering visitors options that encourage them to look deeper.
Make Every Page a Home Page
To ensure every content page on your site engages visitors, include these seven major features to each page that isn’t part of your purchase process. These components should appear above the fold if at all possible, since visitors scan for specific information and may not scroll further if they don’t find what they seek. The factors to include:
- Working links to the appropriate content or landing page. While this seems obvious, nothing creates a worse user experience than a link that doesn’t work or leads to content that’s no longer available. If you provide links to time-sensitive material, consider making it open indefinitely from that communication.
- Search box. Enable visitors to further refine what they’re looking for on your site. This is particularly important if they’ve arrived from a search and don’t immediately see what they want. Remember, some visitors use search as an alternative to site navigation.
- Site navigation. This includes alternative methods, such as footer links. Many users scan your site looking for information, and the topics you choose to highlight with your navigation gives them insight into your broader offering.
- Top-five lists. These lists can be related either to content or product (e.g., “If you like these pants, you’ll love this sweater.”). Try listing five bestsellers or most popular articles. These lists provide visitors with information they may find useful.
- Registration. Include e-mail registration boxes and RSS buttons to encourage visitors to get more information from the site. If you have a variety of newsletters or RSS feeds, offer the ones most relevant to the content presented on the page.
- Engagement features. These include “Forward to a Friend,” “Print This Page,” “Bookmark This Page,” and social bookmarks. The aim is to get visitors to return to the site and to tell others about it. Make sure the “Print This Page” format includes a site address that’s easy to type and other contact information, such as local phone and physical address when relevant.
- Customer information. Give customers multiple ways to get their questions answered, including “Contact Us” for e-mail and chat, relevant phone numbers, FAQs, and a physical address (if appropriate). Also, include a link to an “About Us” page so users feel they’re dealing with a real business.
Does this mean you don’t need a useful, attractive home page? No. But it’s important to understand the home page is not where most of the action is.
Understand how users move through your site to better serve them, build better customer relationships, and keep visitors moving around and returning to your site. The major metrics to assess:
- Monitor sites or URLs visitors come from, as well as the sites or URLs they go to when they leave your site. This helps you better tailor landing pages to meet their needs, giving you a better chance to build relationships with them.
- Track which pages visitors use as a gateway to your site. It’s important to analyze the type of content that attracts new users in terms of the subject matter, author, and format.
- Assess visitors’ on-site activities for your business to determine which resonate with your customers. This can include linking to another item, printing a page, e-mailing a page, registering for e-mail or RSS, or another activity you’ve defined for this content.
- Measure revenue or registrations generated by each page’s visitors in total and per visitor. Understanding why a page is particularly good or bad at attracting and converting visitors helps determine the effectiveness of particular design features.
With expanded options for attracting visitors, users have a variety of ways to get to your Web site. It’s important to provide prospective customers with multiple ways to get more information, to refine their requests regardless of how they enter your site, and to provide a way to connect with you again. Get the most out of each site visitor, regardless of which door they came through.
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