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Why don’t the website visitors convert into customers?

Last week we’ve discussed about the basics of getting more visitors when building and launching a new website. Let’s go one step further and assume that you built a cool website and got a lot of visitors, but only a few become clients and you’re wondering why is that. First, let’s define “a few”: depending on what the website is about, or the type of services or products it’s selling, a typical website has a conversion rate between 0.5% and 8%, where 2% is the average.

Usually when looking for clues on why just a few visitors are buying, most un-experienced web developers think that it only comes to how the site looks and probably are able to point other sites with cooler designs that convert better. But actually studies say that just having a beautiful site doesn’t guarantee the success: the website success is not measured by the unique content or the cool graphics, but by the conversion rate. And there are some important aspects that influence the conversion rate which we’ll try to explain in this article.

Would you refer the site to your family and friends?

If it’s not (only) about how good looking the site is, then improving the conversion rate is definitively about how easy the site is performing its expected function: if it’s a shop, how easy is to find products, read, understand and compare features and make the purchase? If it’s a portfolio site, how easy is to find what type of services have been performed, customer feedback and so on?

Usually what a lot of web developers are failing at, is understanding how visitors are different from themselves:

Web Developer (you)

  • you already know what the site is about
  • you know what the products do
  • you trust the products
  • you know how things work in the site

Site visitor

  • follows a link that might be more or less accurate
  • has a need and doesn’t know what product can solve it
  • need to be convinced the product works
  • might not understand how to use complex user interfaces

So to make first things first, you need to realize what is the expected site function and if it works: presenting the products, portfolio, selling, anything else that can be defined as a desirable action.

  • Are you using a shopping cart? Does it work?
  • If the site sells something online, then a shopping cart that works is paramount. The design and usability of the shopping cart is important but even if you designed a cool shopping cart, if it doesn’t work with a potential client, doesn’t accept credit cards or doesn’t offer other possibilities for payment, then you are going to lose that client. You can learn more about how to design a shopping cart here

    shopping cart

  • Are you giving enough details or maybe you use too many details
  • Sometimes offering too few details about your services or products could make you lose clients even if you have the greatest product ever. Simply the visitor will not know it’s the greatest product. Not very often, but it might happen, offering too much technical details instead of talking about the needs it’s going to cover could confuse a potential client.

The second thing that counts is the website usability

One of the most important aspects in acquiring clients is the quality of the products and services it sells. You can’t do much about these, but if the same product or service would be listed on 2 sites would you recommend yours to the family and friends?

With this thought in mind, make things as easy as possible, to the point you’re building the site for “dummy” visitors. If you are into building the “perfect” user interfaces but that’s adding complexity to the site usage, you’ve already created a failure path for the website.

usability tips

Below are some usability tips you should look for:

  • Add a tagline
  • A tagline is very important for clarifying immediately what the site is about, because it’s the first thing a visitor will see, it’s like a motto that represents you. Accordingly to online statistics you’ve got 8 seconds to capture the attention of the visitor and a well defined tagline should do the trick.

    Hi. I’m a freelance web designer

    Good day, visitor! Welcome to the portfolio of web developer John Doe

  • Add a search option for the website
  • A site search might be a secondary path to resolve any usability issues the visitors might have: if it’s too complicated to navigate or to find what they are looking for, at least visitors get the chance to use the search option. A search option should be easy to use and should be placed on the top of your page especially to the top right corner.

    search option

  • Create a sitemap
  • Sitemaps are very important because of at least two reasons: one, sitemaps improve the user’s navigation inside the website. A sitemap can be a useful tool for a visitor that doesn’t like to browse to find the information he is looking for, especially in sites that from their nature or purpose have a complex structure. And second, a sitemap is very important for SEO. Creating a sitemap is highly indicated by Google Webmaster Tools because it helps the crawler to map the structure of the website.

    sitemap

  • Create readable pages
  • Accordingly to usability tests, the majority of the website visitors “scan” a page before actually reading it. What that means is that if you don’t structure the content inside the pages and make it easier to read you’re going to lose visitors before they even begin to read the content.

    hard to read content

  • Avoid complex elements and widgets
  • Don’t design elements that have a complex functionally even if they seem to solve issues: they might confuse the user before helping him out. As a result you might lose users because they do not understand how to use the widget or how to interact with the website where a feature list might be easier to follow. At least, try to give tips if you want to use complex site functionalities.

  • Are you writing in simple English to your audience?
  • Have you thought that the expressions and the terms inside the content might influence the conversion rate? Maybe the site language is too geeky for some of the users, or maybe you made a bad choice of words. You have to think about the impact of the content and how the readers perceive what you’re trying to say. Do you use a comfortable way of expressing your ideas or do the words give the readers a level of stress? You have to think about a friendly and relaxed way of telling ideas – that’s part of the usability too.

    casual

You can read more about usability features here

Try to understand your visitors

Getting visitors is an important factor for the website’s existence. But understanding what they do and what stops of helps them to become buyers, makes the difference between a successful website and a website that just has a lot of hits. So the next step is to figure out the audience and its behavior.

Here are some tips (we covered analytics in the previous article):

  • Implement a heat map
  • Heat maps display the areas of a web page that are most frequently scanned by users. Using a heat map can help you determine which parts of the website are most used by the visitors.

    heat map

  • Interact with the visitors
  • Feedback forms and even small surveys can help you find out the needs and wishes of the visitors and clients. More advanced techniques are to provide content based on the visitor profile and actions – the so called behavioral targeting: (having different content depending on the language or based on the point of entry, most visited pages and so on). You can read more tips about your audience here

    survey

  • Do you have a clear way of contact? Direct physical address, e-mail, phone.
  • You made a visitor interested into the products or services and he is ready to buy. Do you have a clear way of communication? A contact page, with physical address, a phone number or an e-mail placed in the right spot? As an usability thought try to avoid using capcha inside a contact form.

Sometimes they do not convert at the first visit, but:

  • Do you have a newsletter, facebook page, twitter or other ways to stay in touch with the potential customers?
  • Newsletters are very important to keep in touch with your readers and also are a great way to promote your products. If you think that’s old school, then go the social way with additional things attached to your site: facebook pages, are so easy to do!

  • Did you gave reasons to your visitors to come back?
  • Having a good site is not enough. Users want more from their online experiences: special deals and coupons are old school but they work well; and there are some other ways to give them reasons to come back: tutorials, articles, guides.

  • Have you tested your website for loading time, visibility on different browsers? What about mobile usage?
  • Nobody likes to wait for a website to load. And having big size images or scripts that take a long time to load make a visitor unhappy so he will probably leave before he will even see your work. There are programs like Yslow to help you optimize your files. I have written also an article about optimization tips.

Later edit:

- here is an interesting article from Smashing magazine about understanding the site audience.

Why isn’t a website on the first page of Google and should a Web designer care?

Let’s start by assuming you’re doing a damn good job at designing and implementing websites for your customers. And not only that you’re quick and you use table-less code, but the layouts look awesome and work the same in all browsers. That was enough before, but is it enough nowadays?

The website honeymoon period

As in getting married in the real life, the first cool thing is the honeymoon period. When you launch a new website and it’s being indexed by Google, your website has a “honeymoon period”. Accordingly to Google that means a new site will appear in the first results pages for a limited period of time. Google offers new websites more exposure to visitors this way, but in the following period of time that website will decline to its natural position on the search results. The good part is that you don’t have to do anything else than get indexed by Google when you launch a new website. The bad part is not to act during this period and after your website reaches its natural position. I told you, just like in the real life.

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17 website optimization tips for Web Developers

A few posts ago, we have started talking about website optimization tips and promised will follow up with more stuff later. Good news, we have compiled a list of 17 essential optimization tips to make your website load faster, to simplify your CSS rules and JavaScript code and many other bits and pieces that every Web developer should know.

First we will talk about some performance rules for your website.  One way to check for your website performance is to have the Yslow extension for Firefox Firebug installed. Here is how to install and use the Yslow plugin. And below you can see a picture how it looks like.

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