Between Los Angeles and Las Vegas there’s a stretch of I-15 that’s just barren desert with you, sand, a cactus or two, a few vultures hoping to get lucky, and endless billboards. Most people speed down this stretch of highway as fast as possible, passing billboards at maybe 85 miles an hour. Most of the billboards you see will be fairly simple and easy to read.
If you think of your website as a billboard instead of a website, you’ll be much further along than most people. Why? Because at the rate people surf these days, your website might as well be a billboard people glance at while speeding down the interstate. You have only a snippet of time to prove your site is worthy of a visit.
Here are three ways to improve your site design with this in mind.
1. Go light on the copy.
As surfers, we don’t read, we scan. Web copy (the text on your website) isn’t about writing; it’s about writing less. We don’t want to think, we just want to click, and preferably we want to be told what to do. A well-designed site is not just one that’s light on copy; it’s also uncomplicated and very obvious.
2. Don’t clutter the homepage.
When we’re getting a site designed, we have a tendency to want to push everything onto our home page. We cram it full of every piece of everything we’ve ever done. Just like that billboard crammed with stuff, we want to fill every inch of our home page with words and pictures and all the kinds of things—which send surfers scrambling for the exit button. I call it surf shock when you land on a site that seems to scream at you from your monitor.
3. Don’t provide endless choices.
Does your site resemble Starbucks? A million buttons and links with endless choices for the user? Is it intricate and complicated? Unfortunately, while it works well for Starbucks, it won’t work for your site. Giving your user too many options turns into “analysis paralysis,” and they’ll click off faster than you can say, “double tall, non-fat, no-foam latte.”
Whatever you do and whatever your business is, your home page should have only one goal. Whether that’s selling a product, selling a service or selling you, you need to pick one overarching objective for the home page.
What’s your goal? What do you want people to do when they land on your site?
The Most Important Area of Your Site
Numerous studies have been performed about how people surf. As we discussed above, people scan text. They don’t read every word, but look for the most important pieces that will directly benefit them. Remember that it’s all about the WIIFM factor (what’s in it for me?).
In the illustration above, you’ll see three areas of my site numbered, which correspond with their level of importance.
1. This is the most important piece of the home page. The primary goal of your home page should be reflected here. If you want to sell a product, get newsletter sign-ups or any other important activity, this will be a key spot. Why? Because we read from left to right, so when someone lands on your site, they scan landing on the right side first.
2. Once the eye scans #1, it heads right over to the #2 spot with one question in mind: WIIFM? So #2 and #3 must answer that question for them. The headline is the most important part, and the copy should lead with the most important information.
When visitors land on my business page, it is not about the company or the products we have, it’s about visitors and how we can help them navigate the maze of marketing and publicity options. And did you happen to notice the calls to action on the page: Find Out More, Call Now, Download Our Catalog? It’s important to tell people what you want them to do.
Finally, bear in mind that social proof is powerful, which is why we have the row of books at the top of the page and the reference to bestsellers in the copy.
If you enjoyed this post, then take a look at Red Hot Internet Publicity by Penny Sansevieri. It’s a terrific primer on online marketing for any author getting ready to launch a book marketing campaign.