Building a Better Web Experience
We've spent our fair share of time on the Internet... even when not developing websites. This gives us the unique advantage of wearing both hats—Internet creator and user. Text-only websites that have well laid-out navigation and rich content provide a better end-user experience than a visually gorgeous one that neglects planning a visitor workflow.
The key to crafting a thrilling murder mystery and great website architecture are surprisingly similar: start from the end and work backwards.
Looking from the finish line, what's the best path to get your visitor from your homepage to the finish line? Is your finish line a checkout page? A contact form? Do you have multiple finish lines? For most small to medium sites, we recommend that you select two or three finish lines. We'll help you select more if you only have one in mind.
Don't Disregard Data
If you don't already have a Google Analytics account, sign up here - now. We'll wait.
Google Analytics allows for an omnipotent view on visitor behavior. We have three exercises for you:
First, take a look at the search words that people are using to reach your site. Recognize that this is content that your users want, so make related pages new "finish lines" (unless it is something that can easily fit in its entirety on the home page, such as an address).
The homepage isn't necessarily the only popular landing page, especially on larger sites. It's important to use analytics to learn how people are entering your site.
Lastly, take note of where people are leaving your site. Is it on the pages intended or are they dropping out mid-journey? Are the exit pages dead-ends? (More on that later.)
Write down each page of your website on its own Post-It note and place them on a wall with the desired last pages on the far right and the landing pages on the far left.
Now build the journey. The focus of landing pages is to create obvious (and compelling) links to your desired finish lines. If the user can go straight from the landing page to the finished page, then simply build a clear link from the landing page to the final page. If not, make sure that you don't drop traffic on the intermediate pages with clearly defined Call-To-Actions on EACH page.
Death to Dead Ends
Each page builds a step in your visitor's journey and as such, needs to have a defined purpose. Many pages have great content but don't walk people through the journey. Visitors meet the dreaded "Dead End" when they are on a page that doesn't hold their hand through to the next step.
What's a page without a Call-To-Action? It's a Dead End, and most likely becomes an exit page.
Google has a function called A/B Testing, where you can randomly test different version of a page to see which performs better. Once you have a solid workflow laid out, you can still make improvements by running A/B trials.
When in doubt -- ask. Give intended finish lines to friends and colleagues. Tell them to start on the landing page. Have them report back their experience.