Earlier this week, I was doing some competitors’ research for a client, looking at what the top ranking sites for a particular search term did well and what they could improve. As I sat there making notes, I realised that despite ranking in the top five on page one of Google, three of the five main competitors did not have what I would call a customer-friendly website. Of course, I don’t have the figures to prove it but I imagine that although these sites might get a lot of traffic, only a small proportion of it converts to sales. Once again, it reinforced my belief that companies shouldn’t make SEO the only (or even the main) focus of their websites. Customers need to come first.
This got me thinking about some of the crucial ingredients every customer-friendly website has in common:
1. Helpful headlines
I always look at the main headline on a web page first.
- What does it tell me?
- Is it clear what the site is about or what products or services it sells?
- What kind of language does the company use?
- Does the headline reflect the content?
Personally, I don’t think a website is the place to be too cryptic or clever with a headline (particularly on the Home page) as people are looking for clear clues and signposting to understand the content of the website at a glance. Make your headlines helpful by stating what you do or offer. Not only will your customers thank you but the search engines will also use the heading (when given the correct H1 tag) to grasp what the site is about
2. Logical navigation
Speaking of signposting, the most customer-friendly websites clearly guide visitors through them by strong signposting and logical navigation.
I was reminded of this fact when, a couple of weeks ago, I decided to try a free service called Peek, which sends you a five-minute video of a real person using your website to assess its usability for someone who knows nothing about your company. Listening to the user discuss his first impressions and journey through the site, it quickly became apparent that he was relying on page headings, menu options, subheadings, links, images and bullet points to understand what he should do next and the services I offer. Logical navigation was integral to this user’s experience of the site. Thankfully his feedback of my website was very positive but it was an fascinating insight into the thought process of a new visitor.
Ask yourself the following:
- Does your Home page reflect what you do or sell?
- Can visitors find your About page easily?
- Do the options on your main navigation menus follow a logical path?
- Are you using internal links to group related information together?
- Can you reach all the pages on your website within two clicks?
3. A clear call to action
Imagine this scenario. You’re invited to a party at a stranger’s house. You’ve heard good things about the host of the party from a friend who had a great time at the last get together, so you decide to go along. As you turn into the road where the party is taking place, you’re impressed by the directions the host sent you. The journey was easy. Feeling positive, you step out of the car and head up the path to knock on the door. Then things take a turn for the worst. Someone answers the door but you have no idea whether they’re the host or one of the guests. Despite their cheery ‘welcome’, they don’t invite you in or offer to take your coat (or even tell you where you can put it). You hover uncomfortably at the threshold. Even once you get inside, no-one introduces you to any of the other guests or shows you where to get food or drinks or even where the toilet is. Different things are happening in different rooms but you have no idea where to go first, so you stand, self-c0nscious and disheartened, for as long as you can comfortably bear it before grabbing the coat you’re still clutching and making for the exit. Yes, you could have spent some time exploring and introduced yourself to the other guests but, honestly, it all feels like too much work!
Your website is the equivalent of that party and as the host, it’s your job to make your guests feel welcome and let them know what they need to do next.
When a visitor comes to your website, more often than not, they are proactively searching for a product or service they want to buy. They have gone to the trouble of using a search engine and have clicked through your site to find out more. Too often, websites attract visitors but then fail to meet their needs.
I wrote about the importance of a good call to action in a recent blog but it’s worth reiterating. A call to action gives visitors to your website a clear message about what they should do next. Having read your copy and poised as they are to buy, they’ll thank you for making their life easier by providing them with a next step.
4. Customer-focused copy
One of the most common website faux pars I come across is copy that’s lost sight of the customer. I understand how easily this can happen. When you are passionate about your amazing business, it’s tempting to talk about it non-stop in terms of ‘We this…’, ‘We that…’, ‘We are…’ and so on. You want to communicate who you are, what you do and even how you do it because you know what a difference it can make to your customers. The thing is that your customers’ first concern is not who you are or how you’re in business but what you can do for them. Lose the ‘me, me, me’ to concentrate on your customers and I guarantee that your copy will pack more of a punch.
Consider too that web users love scannable, easy to read copy:
- Use headings and subheadings to lead people through the text
- Add key points as bullet points
- Highlight important information in bold
- Use images that break up the copy but support its message
- Focus on one or two calls to action and make them obvious at a glance
5. A way to contact you
It’s essential to give your customers a way to contact you. Ideally, I would recommend having a clickable phone number or your email address on your main header so that visitors can contact you from any page of the site. If you do just have a Contact page, make sure that links to it from other pages on your website work and that the contact form is set up properly. It’s also a good idea to let customers know when they can expect a response (e.g. within the next 48 hours).
So, what features do you think are essential to a customer-friendly website?
Is there something you always look for? If it was missing, would that drive you away from the site? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the Comments below.