Are you overwhelming your visitors?
Generally in this column, I offer step by step instructions to figure out a part of Search Engine Marketing on your own from the comfort of your favorite chair.
This week’s column may deviate from that just a bit (maybe even a borderline rant) because I’m currently being bombarded by a plethora of blinky, scrolling text and poorly designed and non-functional banner ads on websites – and I’m not going to take it anymore…
Okay, well maybe I am. But the reality is, providing every single idea or item to your visitors on each page of your site (or all thrown up on your homepage) is not more likely to make them buy or sign up, its probably going to overwhelm them and invite them to leave.
Your website has a job – that job is to make you money. One of your site’s job duties would be to deliver information. This delivery should not stand in the way of the site doing its job, it should support it. I was on a website the other day that featured specials, search boxes, features (apparently different than specials) and 6 paragraphs of text without bullets or bold headings, all on the homepage.
I had no idea what to do with this page. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to search for what I thought I wanted, look at the specials to see if it was on sale, or scroll around looking for a phone number. Ironically, the only thing I couldn’t find on that page was a phone number. I left and went somewhere else.
Overwhelming people with a ton of choices leads to decision paralysis, and if they don’t decide, they leave.
So how do you avoid over-stimulating your users?
- Determine what the ultimate action is. How do the users know that’s what you want them to do? Make it clear to them where to click or what to look at.
- Minimize distraction. Multi-colored text, blinking or scrolling banners and autoplay video will distract the user. Keep it simple and straightforward.
- View your page the way your users do. Set your screen resolution to the top versions as determined from your analytics. Many savvy web users are at around 1280×1024. Most users, who use their computer out of the box, browse the web at 1280×768 – this is a huge difference.
I asked my Twitter followers what distracted them the most and causes them to leave a site right away. Great answers all around, I love my tweeple!
- @AlanBleiweiss indicated he leaves if a site throws up perpetual popups as you arrive or navigate. This is important, popups on your site devalue the authority. Many spam sites have multiple popups and people will exit very quickly if you’re sticking something in their face. (This is very different from a “sign up for our newsletter” overlay that shows once.)
- @Mel66 and @neoblog (along with about 30 others) voiced their dislike of the talking customer service rep, or music with no apparent way to shut the noise off. This was by far the most annoying element people brought to me when I asked. I can vouch for this one. Most employers will hate to hear it, but most shopping happens at work, if you want these shoppers to be buyers, don’t force them to close the browser quickly with your noisy website.
- @Sundi_MOZ is annoyed by text ads placed too close to the content on the page, making it hard to see the difference between ads and content. Note: if your site’s job is to make money off of clicking on ads, this might be a good, but annoying idea. If your site’s job is to get someone to buy something on your site, why are you placing ads on the site to lead the visitor away?
- @Skitzzo (and I) are super annoyed with items that look and should be clickable, but aren’t.
- @MariaCorcoran Sent me a direct message regarding her dislike of the never-ending flash load. If your slideshow doesn’t load in a few seconds, its ineffective and needs to be fixed.
- @NateSchubert touched on one of my least favorite elements: drop down and fly-out navigation that is hard to get my mouse on, and hard to see the content behind it.
- @ErinJones commented on my post at Facebook indicating her hate for flashy, blinky circa-1999 cartoon-ey elements, along with a abhorrence of splash pages. (full disclosure: Erin works for me.)
I see a common thread here, things that hide or obscure what they’re looking for, assault the eye or ear, or make users wait to see something are going to hurt your chances at a conversion. Keep in mind that too many elements, or distracting ones lead the user from the ultimate goal of buying, signing up, or giving you a call. Make it clear, simple and employ the KISS method of design – you know the one…Keep It Simple, Silly!
Okay, that’s not the way the saying goes, but using “stupid” felt a little harsh in the context of my rant.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.