By Litha Ramirez, Director of User Experience of Breakthrough Technologies
You have around four seconds to grab someone’s attention when they visit your website, and then they could be gone forever. That’s four seconds (or less) to convey what you do and create a positive impression of your brand, to inspire the visitor to explore more and engage their interest.
Your website is like a storefront. Even if the “goods” inside are amazing, no-one will go inside if they do not think you are selling what they want, or if the exterior looks ugly, outdated or dull. However, far too many businesses fail to create websites that deliver, and miss out on valuable opportunities as a result.
Let’s take a look at the five biggest turn-offs on a company website, so you don’t make these common mistakes:
1. Usability and ease-of-use.
One of the quickest ways to lose a user’s attention is to confuse them. If a visitor comes to your site to access information or a service and they can’t figure out how to do that, they will look elsewhere. Lack of usability is a huge turnoff. The site needs to be easy to use, with a navigation structure that makes sense. Users should instantly understand how to get where they need to go and should be able to get there in as few clicks as possible.
Make sure that the navigation features are prominently placed and clearly identified. In addition, companies can boost usability with features like breadcrumb navigation and search with auto suggest, which keeps visitors on the right track if they do start to stray.
2. Labeling and clear messaging.
Even the most beautifully designed website in the world will fall short if it is unclear what the company does. The internet is growing increasingly visual, and while photos and videos are certainly an important part of web design, they can’t come at the expense of clarity. If a visitor arrives at a website and is presented with a large, high-resolution image with a few vague words, but can’t discern what the company’s product is, they will leave. The message has to resonate.
A visitor should be able to tell from second one who you are and what you are about. This not only means prominently placing top priority information, but also phrasing it in a way that makes sense (ie. avoiding your company’s internal jargon). Failing to concisely communicate what your website is about to your audience is a major turnoff. Just as not enough information is a mistake, so is too much. If it takes two-three paragraphs to get your value proposition across, you have lost them. People should not have to work hard to find out about what you are offering.
Additionally, clear labeling is essential for usability, as discussed above. Companies occasionally try to align navigation labels with internal product names instead of plain English. While brand consistency is important, stick to navigation labels that everyone can understand.
3. Broad and shallow versus narrow and deep.
Attention spans are shrinking, and the younger generation has less patience with the amount of content on a website. Millennials are multitaskers. They have lots of things going on and want to get the message quickly. This means they do not want a lot of detail on every page, but rather want concise, chunked information, so it is easier to hone in on exactly what they are looking for. Basically, they want a focused top line.
In contrast to this preference for a broad and shallow approach, older generations tend to prefer content presented in a way that is narrow and deep. For example, during a study of Medicare users I helped conduct with Plaza Research for Humana in 2010, we found that older groups tend to want a lot of information and detail on every page. They want comprehensive information across multiple categories in one place.
In order to implement these preferences, companies need to understand who their users are and what they want. Putting too much information on one page or not enough can be a turnoff, depending on the makeup of your user base.
Self-service websites are really important for everyone today, but especially for younger generations. Internet users — who have grown up being able to access any product or service at any time and look up information on the fly — like to be self-sufficient. They prefer to handle things independently, anytime, anywhere. They would rather have their questions answered digitally and solve problems themselves than get on the phone. A website that does not have robust self-service options will turn off younger users.
For older generations, knowing they can talk to someone is extremely important. They prefer paper and phone calls, so companies serving this demographic need to provide these options as well. The most successful websites give users all the information and tools they need to help themselves, but have a responsive customer service team ready to fill in the gaps.
Fresh, contemporary, and mobile site.
Today’s internet user is digitally savvy. They spend huge amounts of time online and appreciate good design. A website that is clear, but also dull and uninteresting is a turnoff. The best sites are those that include interesting interactions and new models of design to excite users. Aesthetics matter, especially to younger users.
Part of delivering a fresh, modern website is making it available on mobile. Millennials are constantly on their mobile devices and they expect to be able to work, shop, play, communicate, bank, manage their healthcare and more on-the-go. This means they need services available to them wherever they are. For certain products, a mobile app makes sense, such as for banking. However, in other cases a mobile optimized site is the better option. Knowing which route to go depends on the priorities of your users and the context of the usage, but no matter what, every business needs a mobile optimized site.
Avoiding these five common web design pitfalls is essential for maintaining a competitive edge. You have to make sure you are engaging your users and helping them accomplish their goals in a timely fashion, because if not, a glut of other companies is ready to swoop in.
Litha Ramirez, Director of User Experience at Breakthrough Technologies, is a seasoned professional with 15 years of experience as a UX leader, strategist, and designer with a strong background in e-commerce, fine arts, and multimedia installations.