There’s a fairly simple rule to follow when it comes to building a website; it’s something that is easy to do and makes websites far more effective. I’d like to go out on a limb here and say that not following it is probably the biggest mistake a web designer can make, and unfortunately it’s far too common.
So what is this golden rule?
“Put yourself in the end users’ shoes”
Yes, it really is that simple; it just takes a bit of thought on how to implement it…
Who are your users (there may be several different types), and what is it they want to see?
For example, if you’re selling holidays you’re likely to have a very excited user with money burning a hole in their pocket. They’ve worked all year to save for a couple of weeks away and they’ve visited your website…
First of all they’ll want to know that you offer what they want. They want to easily search and browse what they’re after. No waffle, no pages of generic information. They want to know who you are, and whether you have the holiday that they’re after. Your site must be simple and easy to navigate.
Once they’ve found a holiday, they need to be sold their dream, they need to see stunning photos so that they can visualise their holiday from start to finish. They’ll have lots of questions such as where they are staying, how far it is from the nearest town, what facilities they have, what food they’ll be eating, how do they get there, and what things there are to see and do in the area. If they are on a tour they’ll want to know what they’re seeing, where they’re going and where they’re staying. These days it’s also important to reassure users about the safety in the local area. If you show them everything they need, and it’s ticked all of their boxes, they’re set on the idea.
Pages such as “why choose us?” may be redundant, because if you’ve done a good job at showing a user everything they want, why would they not choose you?
At this stage it’s irrelevant if you set up as a tour operator due to your passion for the outdoors, and whether you’ve been travelling for 30 years; the user has come to your website, found the holiday of their dreams and you’ve shown them everything they need to know.
So now they want to book it, and it’s essential that it’s straight forward for them to choose their dates, enter their details and pay a deposit. If they find this difficult they’ll walk away, after all they’re sitting down with their friends and want to book a holiday today, they’re excited!
So no complicated forms asking for information that the user doesn’t have; choose a date, let them tell you who’s going, let them pay a deposit. That’s it, the hard work is done, you’ve made a sale and they’re committed … the rest of the details you can get at a later date.
So in this example we’ve considered the journey of a user. They need to be introduced to the website and have a clear way to find their holiday. When they find one it’s imperative that they are shown everything that they want, and that they have no questions, and if they’re happy with what they see (and why shouldn’t they be) it needs to be quick, obvious, and easy to book.
Forget the waffle, get to the point. If a holiday maker is looking at a destination what information is it they’re after? If they’re on business they probably care about the transport links; if they’re younger perhaps the distance to the nightlife; if they’re on a family holiday perhaps the beaches and shopping; if they’re on a tour they may be interested in the history and culture. It’s important that the correct and relevant information is displayed throughout (don’t focus on the history and culture for a sports or adventure holiday).
It seems simple, and in principal it is simple, but how many websites have you gone to where you’ve found hard to find what you want, or been unable to answer your questions?
It gets a little tricky when you have different kinds of users after different things. This is where we come in; we're experts at the user experience (UX) of a website. Little adjustments here or there that seem obvious in hindsight make all the difference.
One travel website that we’ve made for example used to have most of its users ‘bounce’ away almost immediately. By considering the user journey in our redesign this has dropped to just 1 in 20, with most users exploring the site for several minutes.
I’d urge you to look at your website, and try and put your inside-knowledge to one side. Imagine you’re a customer, what is it you are likely to ask? What is it that you would want to see if you were purchasing off of a competitor? Think about each stage of your journey from search engine (what would you type in?), through the website, and on to the final stage of payment or picking up the phone.
We are Webbed Feet UK, we make websites that work.