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Four Ways to Keep Your Online Audience Interested

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In this article, you'll learn...

  • Four common ways websites lose visitors
  • How to attract and maintain customers via good website design

If you operate a small business that hasn't yet realized the value or potential of the Internet in attracting customers to your products or services, wake up! You are not only missing out on a golden opportunity but also losing a lot of would-be customers to your competition.

If, on the other hand, you are in the growing majority of businesses that do a significant portion of their business online, you already know the value of a website. But how well do you understand the value of making that website attractive?

Studies show conclusively that a poorly constructed website will lose a large portion of its visitors within a very short period of time. And a very slow website—well, forget it! Customers won't even bother with it.

So, as a Web marketer, you are doubly challenged. You need to make customers flock to your site, but you also need to keep them there so they will hang around and look. Yet I continually run across poorly designed sites where I see the same mistakes repeated over and over again.

What follow are four common ways that small business websites in particular can lose visitors within minutes, if not seconds.

1. Aggravate eyestrain

Nothing is more unappealing than a website with a cluttered look. Nobody wants to see a page filled to capacity with boring text; even worse is a page that is hard to read:

  • Although it might sound colorful, blue text on a purple background is a nightmare to the human eye. So is a gaudy font that is as illegible as it is fancy.
  • Long paragraphs present a daunting challenge to many readers.
  • And why would you even consider burdening your viewers with tiny text?

Always treat your customers' eyes with kindness. Make your site a pleasant sight!
2. Make content hard to find

Site visitors typically have a good idea of what they are looking for. It's your job to make it easy for them to find it!

All too often I see pages designed with the expectation that the viewer will read the entire page to learn what to do next. Most people don't want to do that; they'd much rather skim the page to find a link that takes them where they want to go.

A link that reads "click here" doesn't tell your viewer very much at all. Instead, you should clearly describe the destination within the text of your link. For example, a link that reads "Learn more about (name of product)" works much better.

Describing the destination of your links will allow your visitors to quickly go to where they want to be, and to know for certain that the link will get them there.

3. Don't provide alternatives to audio or video content

Nothing slows down site performance more than large video or audio files. Without question, audiovisual content has value—if you use it the right way.

Include a brief description of each video clip you post on your site so you save viewers the frustration of loading and watching content that turns out to be irrelevant to them.

Even better, provide a text alternative to audio or video files. Give your visitors options between file formats so that they can choose based on what is more important to them—speed or quality. Flash files, for example, tend to be small and relatively quick to load but are low on quality, whereas MP4 files yield high-quality content but are large and slower to load.

4. Take away control

Visitors who feel they are in charge are likely to stick around and become interested in what you are offering. Don't turn their site exploration into a navigational nightmare. When they make a mistake, don't transport them back to the homepage or never-never land. Instead, tell them what they did wrong via an error message so that they can correct it.

As already noted, make the destination of every link clear by using descriptive text. Offer the option to confirm, reverse, or cancel any important action. Always give visitors a clear path home.

If customers find that navigating your site is pleasurable, they will enjoy visiting and will look forward to exploring.

* * *

Much like an attractive store or shop, a well-designed website will attract customers who will be happy to be there—and happy to stay a while.

Avoid the common mistakes that turn visitors away, and your website can be a boon to your business instead of a detriment. Make your website attractive, and your online business will blossom.

(Image courtesy of Bigstock, Funny Guy Browsing.)

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Tim Eyre is interactive marketing manager at Extra Space Storage, which offers storage facilities throughout the US.

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  • by Zachary Adelstein Tue Oct 25, 2011 via web

    These are some very good points that might not seem as apparent to small business owners as it might seem. There is nothing more frustrating than going to a site to get information on a product only to be slowed down or stopped by lack of navigation ability or just slow bandwidth. It is imperative of small businesses to make sure they get a professionally designed website that can market their goods and services the way they should be marketed.

  • by Ryan B Tue Oct 25, 2011 via web

    Great article, fascinating how many sites continue to break these rules.

    Making sure you have your categories, posts and content organized in a simple and intuitive fashion can improve navigation and help your visitors find content that interests them.

    I've also found that embedding a webinar or video player can be an excellent alternative for educating visitors without making them read paragraphs of text. I found this webinar especially useful for online performance - hope it helps!

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