U-C WEBS' founder Nardo KuitertBy Nardo Kuitert, U-C WEBS
[Published in The Wellington Advertiser, January 2010 for the Centre Wellington Chamber of Commerce]

Internet users are notoriously impatient. With the whole world just a few clicks away people expect to find what they’re looking for fast, or they will just try the next site. The fact that reading on a computer screen is much slower and more tiring for the eyes don’t help either.”Will I stay or will I go?” is usually decided upon in the first 5-10 seconds of someone’s visit. Talk about making a good first impression…

So how about your website: do your website visitors “Get It” in 10 seconds or less?

If you say “I don’t know” or “Maybe not”, then you will have a big problem. Your site may very well have a lot of visitors who only see the first page of your site, and then quickly leave. These high bounce rates not only hurt the number of inquiries or sales, but also the perception that people have of your company – your branding.

And if you say “Sure they do”, then think again. Go solicit some unbiased feedback, and you will be surprised by people’s observations. Every website can be improved upon, maybe even “should”’ be improved upon… The proof is in the (Merry Christmas!) pudding: there are far too many websites out there that annoy or confuse visitors because of the site owners’ blind spots.

Here are some tips on how to make your website more obvious and effortless:

  • Keep the page simple, clean and focused.
    Clutter or overly cute (yet confusing) page elements are recommended against. But include enough text for the search engines! I know, it is a delicate balance.
  • Keep the navigation simple, organized and effective.
    Think hard about the hierarchy of your links, and make it relevant. Ordering them in alphabetical order is probably the worst you can do! Your most important pages should be mentioned first, as the first 2-3 links (measured from the top-left corner of the screen) will probably receive the most clicks. And label the navigation links appropriately, so that people know what they can expect once they click on them.
  • Deliver a branding statement or value proposition near the top of the page.
    It should be clear to your visitors WHY they should hang around your website for a while. Do you have the largest assortment, the best prices, the most knowledgeable and courteous staff, a money back guarantee? Your Unique Sales Proposition should be front and centre on the home page, or even in the header banner on all pages.
  • Use appropriate images for illustration and/or navigation.
    Pictures automatically draw the eye. And if these pictures are relevant to the visitors’ search they can help you dramatically increase your conversions (from visitor to customer). Attractive product images that are hyperlinked to a product description page, for instance, can drive visitors towards the desired result.
    Make sure that these images are optimized for fast downloading, though. Not everybody is on high-speed internet yet, and you don’t want people on dial-up cursing your website.
  • Use attractive colours.
    A picture can say a thousand words, but colours can support your cause as well. By using not only appropriate, relevant colours but also an appealing colour palette your website visitor will get into the right mood to interact with your website – and you! While you may think that a black website with white lettering is cool, your visitors may very well get all gloomy and leave your website depressed…

Nardo Kuitert is an Internet Consultant with Fergus Website Development and Optimization firm U-C WEBS (www.u-cwebs.com). U-C WEBS also offers Internet advertising opportunities on www.ferguspages.com. (link opens in a new window)

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