Secret Weapons of Website Design – Site Integration

Make no mistake, lack of attention to site integration will bite you. Many web owners leave their customers to fumble through a site that is confusing and has no clear next step. Customers feel unsupported and abandoned.  In the biz, we call these people “widows and orphans”.  This leads to missed opportunities and missed revenue for business owners.

The Hansel and Gretel Shuffle

You may not realize it but retail stores are designed to move you through in a Hansel and Gretel breadcrumb like trail. They lure you in by putting eye-catching items in the window. Once you are in, your steps have been pre-planned by the big marketing team in the sky. They tempt with interesting items so you will move to the right and then the left. Then a display that requires you to move around it. On and on it goes until you look back and have walked a predetermined path through the store designed to showcase their merchandise.

Simple Strategies to Create a Highly Integrated Website

1.  Balance your creativity with predictability. People feel safe and comfortable when they can predict what will happen next.  So many of my clients want to get all creative and shake things up.  That is great, you need to put your personality out there but remember to keep your customer in mind first.  The solution for a confused website visitor is just a click away– a click away off your site that is!

Some marks to hit include:

  • Logo in the top left of the home page
  • Navigation bar preferably across the top but can also be on one of the sidebars.  However, this must be very visible.
  • Newsletter or Opt-In sign up in the top right sidebar area.

2.  Hyperlinks. Add hyperlinks throughout your site, linking to the next page in the site you want your visitor to go. Think of these as sign posts on a hiking trail.  What is the next step you want your visitor to take?  Talk about your amazing services on your ‘About’ page, then add a hyperlink to the ‘Services’ page right there. “Contact us for more details” should include a hyperlink to the ‘Contact’ page or your email. One great practice is to put this contact information at the bottom of every page.

Bottom line:  Always have at least one link to follow to your next service, product, or more information. Never leave them stranded on one of your pages. Make it easy for them and lead on!

3.  Social media integration. There are many new buttons, badges, and plugins that make integrating Twitter, Facebook and other social media stupid easy.  I recommend finding one or two social media sites to focus on and integrating them with your website.  You stand a much better chance for success if you narrow your focus, get that rolling and then build from there.

4.  To breadcrumb or not to breadcrumbs.  Breadcrumbs are the little headlines you see on a web page that tell you how you got there.  They are used to keep the visitor oriented to where they are and how they got there.  If you have a complex site, breadcrumbs can be useful.  However a well designed navigation bar and site integration can be all you need.  In the end it is a personal preference.  I prefer not to rely on them as they take up valuable web page real estate and I find them distracting.

Recommended Reading

These are just a few easy things you can do to improve your site integration and navigation.  I highly recommend Steve Krug’s Book Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, 2nd Edition for more ideas and an in-depth look at site usability and integration.

Are You a Man or a Chicken?

Next up in the Secret Weapons of Web Design series – Web Page Layout.  Did you know your site visitors are not reading every line of your beautiful prose?  It’s true, we as humans tend to act more like chickens when it comes to reading websites.  We pick and pluck, scan and skip.  Next post I’ll share the secrets of how to layout and design your web pages for maximum impact with your visitors.

Is your Customer Service Policy Killing your Business?

How important is customer service to your business?  Well one person you could ask is Tony Hsieh, Founder and CEO of Zappos.  Zappos is known for its focus and attention on customer service.  The media is full of stories about it and how they have built their multi-million dollar business by providing an outstanding experience to their customers.   Or, you could ask the CEO of the “Company X”  that I just cancelled service with and get a completely different answer.

Overall, the idea is the same–get customers in and make it hard for them to leave.  Now one way to do that is tune in to the customer’s needs, keep them happy, and work with them when they are not a la Zappos. 

Another way to go a la “Company X” is to REALLY make it hard for them to leave… as in it takes 20 minutes in an online chat because there is no other way to contact the site.  Then pitch several value offers for something you have already said you don’t want before finally allowing you to cancel.  BTW–My favorite one is the “let me give you a month free to decide”.  This actually means “let me see if I can make you forget about this for a month and get a couple of more billing charges because you are distracted”. 

My point is, and there is a point, as a business owner, its critical to put some serious thought and planning to your customer services policies.  No doubt the bad customer service I experienced with Company X was functioning exactly as it was designed to and  bringing  the company some extra income from people that were too busy and distracted to actually cancel or ask for customer service.  Not illegal or unethical but certainly not cultivating raving fans that want to tell all their friends either.   In today’s social media and instant information age, can you really afford to have a bad customer service report go viral on you?  The cost to inattention here can kill your business!

So where do you start when designing your customer service policy?  The best place to start is with your own experience and throw in a little research:

  1. Make a list of your best and worst customer service experiences.  What do they have in common?  What kind of experience do you want your customers to have? Cast the vision for what you want to create.
  2. What steps can you take to replicate (or avoid)  these experiences in your own customer service policy? Do some research and see what other companies you respect are doing.
  3. Write your customer service policy and post it on your website.   As an added bonus, the search engines like to see that you have policies and terms.  It helps them identify you as a legitimate business which can translate into more SEO love.

In the end, it all comes down to what experience you want to create for your customers and business… and what you are willing to do to provide that for them.

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