Why your website needs a roadmap
You know what you want your website to say. You know what you want it to achieve for your business or charity. You know who you want it to appeal to. One thing you may not know is the vital ingredient to bring all of those things together – and that is flow.
That word can be pretty polarising, so I don’t use it lightly. It may give you flashbacks to the days when business strategists LOVED a flowchart, to “map your client journey” or “chart the lifecycle of your client” – but these old adages did hold one grain of truth and that is that we human beings (in general) like a path to follow, and your website plays a huge part in that.
In fact, in a large-scale usability study, The Nielsen Norman Group (who host conferences on research-based user experience), cite “unexpected locations for content” as the NUMBER ONE most damaging mistake you can make on your website. In simple terms, that means people visiting your website just cannot find what they’re looking for – because there’s no flow. No clear path through the site or in the way information on your site is structured.
To help you put this in context, let’s compare an ecommerce site with a bricks and mortar retail shop. Imagine you walk into a shop on your High Street and start making your way down the aisle, only to find a dead end? You have to turn around and go back on yourself, you’re almost back to the door you entered through when you spot another aisle and head off down that one, to find that it splits in two and you’ve no idea which to choose as there’s no signage or obvious clear path.
You wouldn’t stay very long or buy very much would you?
It’s the same on your website. Your aim is for your target audience to arrive on your site, read wording that speaks directly to them and the reason they came to you and make it BLATANTLY obvious from the outset exactly which next step they should take, which button to click or which page you’ve created specifically to meet their needs. The result? They feel comfortable with you, think you understand them and what they’re looking for, they feel safe in your hands.
Give them the “dead end” routine or (heaven forbid) expect them to figure it out as to how to use your site and they’ll be lost in more ways than one…
So how do you design and engineer a seamless customer journey – or flow – into your website?
Start by really understanding your client’s needs. Not just what you’d like to show them, but what they came to you to find – it is often a very different thing. Having a clear understanding of your target audience and the way your product or service helps them in their lives is the key here, but then EXPAND your view and include who they are as individuals.
For example, you may be selling a product to young men aged between 18 and 25. You’ve identified the sort of imagery they like, the right colour scheme, great wording, etc, and know just how to present your product on the page in a way they will like. Now step back and look at that audience – how did they come to your site? Which device are they using to access it? How much free time do they have to wander around your site – do they need to get straight to the checkout or do they want lots of information first?
Understanding the journey your customer is on in their mind, before they even reach your site, will help you to map out the route they will prefer once they are IN your site.
One client of ours recently had us redesign and update their website as their target client group had evolved over time and they wanted to attract a slightly different audience. Having identified the profile (or avatar, as it’s now popular to say!), for the new audience, we could see that these people were fact-driven, enjoyed free content and liked to do their research before making a decision – but they were often short of time.
We engineered this understanding into the sitemap – the flow for the website – to give short, valuable snippets of information and rapid, direct access to make their enquiry about the packages and programmes specifically designed for their needs. We blended this with readily-available blogs for more detail, which they could return to when they had time – in exchange for their one-step subscription to the mailing list.
As a result, enquiries are up and the Company mailing list has increased significantly – ensuring future information will automatically be filtered and sent out to precisely the right audience for each blog post or article created.
Flow is the vital component of your website success plan so don’t skip this important stage when first planning your site. Guide your customer and they won’t be lost to you, or your site.
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