It’s easy to get hung up on what your website looks like, but is that what your visitors care about most?
The truth is, our favorite websites are usually those that invite us to be active participants. That means we care much more about usability than aesthetics (for example, Craigslist). That’s not to say that combining usability and excellent design isn’t the ultimate goal. But clever design with poorly organized content will ultimately frustrate your visitors and undermine any positive initial impression based on design.
We (if we consider ourselves representing the majority of Internet users) have developed “Search Engine ADD,” brought about by a rapid adoption of Google and other search technologies as our primary gateway to the web. Symptoms occur when our time on the Internet is wasted, even if it’s just a few seconds, because we can’t find what we were searching for right away. These symptoms may include elevated blood pressure, “click spasms” of the index finger and occasional involuntary profanities directed at your computer screen.
Unfortunately for your own business’s website, there’s a simple self-administered cure: Go back to your search results and click the next result down, possibly a competitor’s website. But you certainly don’t want your good prospects doing that — and preventing it from happening is where effective Information Architecture makes all the difference.
There are many indicators that it’s time to rethink the structure of your content. Google Analytics, or an equivalent site analytic tool, is an absolutely essential part of the equation in making or at least validating the assumptions in this assessment. Here’s what to ask:
- Does your site’s content line up with what your target market is searching for? Is this corroborated by analytics and keyword data?
- Have you defined specific primary, secondary and/or tertiary goals (target click-paths) for each of your target visitor’s profiles (If you don’t know where your best prospects should be going on your site, chances are they won’t either)?
- Is there a clear path to next steps for achieving any or all of these goals for each visitor profile on every page of the site?
- Do links to these next steps appear in the correct order, reflecting the order of importance to the visitor, and addressing different stages of the buying cycle?
- Are there offers for each stage of the buying cycle that are highly visible and easy for the visitor to request?
- Is navigation overly complicated, with eight or more choices in each category of information, or more than seven top-level categories of information?
- Are there dead ends — pages where no further forward process can be made — where the visitor is forced to use their “back” button to navigate?
Your products and services evolve — and the categorization of information is usually the first thing to start slipping as a result. If any of the above questions reflect negatively on the state of your current Information Architecture, this could be the best place to begin improving the effectiveness of your website. Smart information architecture leads to better content, better design and a better user experience.
Speaking of better content, we’ll be assessing this critical website element in my next post…
Note: This is post three of a nine-post series entitled, “Is Your Website Optimized for Demand Generation?” To read more of Justin’s series, just follow the links below…
Tune into a podcast interview about this post with the author of the series.
For more information on website optimization, check out Nowspeed’s eight chapter eBook “Is Your Website Optimizated for Demand Generation and High ROI?”