It doesn’t matter what your intended message was, what matters is what your audience heard. The onus falls on the communicator.
I touched on this in a blog post a couple of weeks back that included a rant about not using industry jargon on your website, but it’s worth going more in depth.
When making or redoing your website, one of the most important things is to think about your visitors and who they are. You’d think this was easy, but it’s not. If you’ve been in your industry for any length of time, it’s not always easy to think of how you were when you didn’t know what you know now. If you’ve been doing what you’re doing for a while, then you’ve probably forgotten more than most people have ever learned about your field . Which means it’s time to create some personas.
A user persona is a made up person that would represent your audience. Give the persona a name, age, location, job, hobbies, general Internet usage. including where they use it most and on what device, what their goal is on your website, and whatever else you think may help. Create a few of these personas based on who your prospects are.
Think of how your visitor would categorize things. What would they look for? For instance, if you went to Netflix, and saw that their navigation was no longer based on genre, but on movie studio, would you find that helpful? Not me. Think of what your visitor is looking for and the terms they would use, and that would be a good start for your website navigation. Then go further into the website and do the same thing. To continue with the Netflix example, once you get to the “Action & Adventure” category page, they give the option to narrow it down even more by subgenres of Action & Adventure. People don’t mind clicking deeper into the website as long as they feel that they’re going in the right direction.
Next is to layout (or, if it’s already live, go through) the website like you’re one of those personas. Follow the path of how one of those users found your website and how they would navigate your website. Make sure you use it from their perspective:
- Do they know they’re on a website that can help them get the information they need, or to complete a specific task? Looking at the website, how do they know this? Maybe the tagline by your logo says “Premium women’s clothing at discounted prices”.
- What do they see when they land on the homepage? Does it make sense to someone who isn’t in your industry?
- Depending on how people get to your website, they may not always land on the homepage. Search engines list the most appropriate pages based on the search query, which aren’t always the homepages. What do they see if they land on an inner page, and will they know what to do and where to go?
- Since you’ve setup a predetermined goal for these personas, will they be able to see something that gets them closer to that goal? Maybe an image that they can relate to?
- Is the user interrupted? You may have a popup that pops up on each page (please, not each page). Will the interruption slow them down if they’re in a rush? How will the interruption look on mobile?
- If you have a business where you want people to contact you, is there clear contact info?
If you sell women’s clothing, you would obviously have a few female personas. Creating personas that aren’t your typical users can also help your website and show you new opportunities. For instance with that same clothing website, you can make a male persona who needs to shop for his wife’s birthday. In which case, you may want to have an email subscribe area with a field for his wife’s birthday. This way he can get a reminder email to buy her something from your website of course a couple of weeks before (he’ll appreciate it). Put a coupon code in the email and it’ll help.
Show your website to people you know (who don’t do what you do!). Give them tasks to complete, like “find our prices”, or” find our customer support phone number”. Stand behind them, and without helping them complete the task, see if they have trouble. Have them “think out loud”, so you know why they may be clicking on a certain thing, or missing it totally. Note where they get stuck (if they do). Resist the temptation to yell “IT’S RIGHT THERE!!“.
In conclusion, remember that your visitors are thinking all along- WIIFM, or “What’s in it for me”?
The goal with your website is that you don’t want your visitors to think, you only want them to react.