If you’re going to work on the structure of your website, then you’ll want to think like site visitors and how they will approach your site.
Why Bother with Thinking Like a Visitor?
You’re the expert, right? So why should you try to think like a visitor? Shouldn’t you stay in your expert role so that you can teach and help? I don’t think so – I think if you want to relate to other experts, think like an expert. If you want to relate to your visitors (who may go on to become customers and clients) then you’ll want to think at their level of understanding of your topic.
You’re so very close to the information about your industry that it’s easy to write and build at a much higher level than most of your information consumers. But, if you take the time to set up your website with the visitors you want in mind, you can build a site that engages those visitors and walks them through your information in the way you design.
Here are just a few ways to get started.
Think Through A Customer Lifecycle
If someone first visiting your site doesn’t know you or what you do, then they don’t know how you can help them. What they do have is hope. Hope that you can do something specific to get them to a particular goal. Not every visitor is going to be hoping for what you have to offer though. What you need to do is filter out the visitors that don’t want what you offer quickly and easily, and grab the attention of the visitors that do want what you offer.
The simplest way to do this is to use the “hero area” of your home or landing page. Literally tell the visitor:
-who you are
-what you do
-how you can benefit them
Bonus points for using imagery to support that message.
Educating your visitor
Assuming the visitor sees your message on your home page and still has hope that you can help, you want to then make sure to highlight the areas of the site with the most important information for the visitor. You can accomplish this by featuring not your latest posts, but your two to three most informative posts. Or, you can display links to each category of product or service that you offer. A third way would be to build a Start Here page and link to it prominently on the home page. Pick pieces of valuable information that would build interest and help a visitor decide if you could help them.
At this point, if a visitor is still on your site, you want to keep building trust with that visitor. From the important pieces of content (above), make sure that the user can then seek out additional valuable information. You can do this by: creating more and more free content, linking to related content, linking to next and previous content, and/or offering a high value product in exchange for an email address.
Convert visitors to customers
Once trust is built, you can ask your visitors to become customers. You can make this offer on a product and services page and have your content reference these offers.
Inspire loyalty and repeat business
Even when a visitor has become a customer, continue to make your site easy to navigate. If you have a customer area, make sure it isn’t hidden. Give customers a link to use directly from your home page.
Ask your current customers
Are you talking with your current customers? If you want to turn your site visitors into customers, you might ask your current customers if they had any confusion or problems navigating your site. Did they spend too much time searching for the information they wanted, or was it presented in a way that made sense to them? Ask what was helpful, and what they could have done without.
Look at your site analytics
You should be collecting site analytic data through Google Analytics or another statistics app. The data collected can tell you which pages are the most visited and how visitors get to those pages. It can also tell you where visitors gave up and dropped off your site. Use this information to spot trouble. If the page with your key information doesn’t get many visitors, you may need to re-organize and put that information in the visitor’s path.
Talk with a professional designer or user experience (UX) pro
If you’re still stuck, try talking with a designer or UX professional. A pro can help in a couple ways. First, they’re not an expert in your business – they can view your site from the perspective of a visitor. Second, they work with designing website organization structure every day. If you’re a DIY kind of person, and don’t want to have someone else build your site, you can still hire a professional here and there for a consultation.
Handling Multiple Types of Visitors
If you need to target more than one type of customer, make the sections for each group clear. While this may not apply to everyone, many small businesses want to address two different audiences with their main website. A good example of this is a site that has information for potential customers as well as sections for existing customers. This is just fine, but make sure each group has clear entry points to the site, and that on your home page, each area is easily defined and seen.
Review you website’s organization with your visitors in mind. Have you made it easy for interested visitors to learn about you and your business? Is there a clear path for them to become a customer?