I had the privilege to spend my day today doing something I love, observational research. I observed ten users spending 45 minutes each on a website. The site was a prototype that a client plans to launch soon. This is a very important launch and one that plenty is riding on. It didn’t go well. The problem was one that many organizations face.
They built a site with multiple and often conflicting goals. They are trying to get across their branding messages, build user generated content and grab leads. Each initiative obscured the other. Bottom line was that users were confused. The feedback received today is not unusual and can apply to many sites.
Users respond when you message to them in a direct manner:
Most users couldn’t understand the messages that were used to try and create emotional connections. Tell them what you have. Tell them how you can help them. Let them know right away when they get to your site. Users kept saying that they would have preferred direct messages. Give them what they want, which also happens to be what they are looking for. Simple, isn’t it?
Simplicity is of utmost importance:
Users don’t like choices. You may think that by giving them options you are helping them find what they are looking for… but you’re wrong. You may think that you are steering them to what you want them to do… but it will not happen. I’ve been successful with optimization through elimination for years and it is part of the methodology we use at OTTO Digital called Radical Simplicity. Define a single goal for each experience and build clear messaging around it and nothing else. Radical Simplicity works.
User Generated Content (UGC) should be 100% user generated:
Seems simple but I have seen a proliferation of companies trying to engage users to contribute to their site or provide viral marketing or link building on their terms or based on the businesses ideas of what’s interesting. Forget that strategy. You can’t get users to generate the content that your business wants them to. To be successful with UGC you need to give users the tools and platforms to create and discover whatever they want.
Have a site that users can read:
Basic usability here but somehow this most basic of issues is often overlooked. Light text on a white background, small points and fancy fonts are going to hurt your site as will text that is part of a “design.” It’s simply unacceptable to have a site that puts ANY strain on users to read. One of the things I like so much about the Web 2.0 design aesthetic is the use of large clear points and easy to read fonts.
If you have no choice but to present multiple goals for a user what should you do? My advice is to create separate, distinct and possibly walled experiences for each goal and bypass the homepage to drive your users into one of the different experiences most relevant to them. You can direct them from search, referrer, customer lifecycle stage and of course if they do come to the homepage they can self-segment.
The users have spoken!