In marketing, the goal is to know your potential customer and their needs. In Internet marketing, it is of critical importance. Why? Web sites are a “virtual, self-service” experience. Before someone clicks on your organization’s Web site they have no knowledge of how to interact and no one guiding them to help find what they are seeking. Understanding your Web site visitors (prospects) and providing an experience that turns them into customers is imperative to generate a return on investment for your Web site.
Understanding the Web User Experience
As Web sites developed in the last decade, they seemed to become larger and larger, unwieldy and finally unappealing to new users (against the original intent of development to help the customer). Companies assumed this is what the visitor wanted. More information meant prospects could find what they wanted and needed. But these large amounts of information were presented in an awkward, cumbersome manner and visitors had a negative response. Who hasn’t been frustrated trying to find something simple on a Web site?
The trend in web development today is to understand and develop to the “user experience”. It is a somewhat new concept, especially for company leaders, on how visitors actually view and use a company’s Web site. But the concept is quite simple: Consider what your users are experiencing every step of the way as they discover the information on your site. Don’t make execution of this concept complex. Break it down into “content paths” within your site to increase the return on your company’s investment.
The Key Layers
Before you manage a user experience, identify the key layers where you can adjust your Web site. These key layers are:
- Presentation Layer (the graphics and images of your site)
- Real Estate Layer (the common placement of functional areas of your site)
- And Organizational Layer (the organizational schematic of your site).
Each layer is driven by your business goals. If any one of these layers is not considered while developing areas of your site, or the site as a whole, the visitor may find that using your site is not a pleasant experience.
Are the pages and content of your site easy to find? Managing the key layers while you review your organization’s Web site (from a new user viewpoint) allows you to see first-hand if your content is well organized. As a user navigates from the functional portions of your Web site, the common areas should be reviewed with the goal to aid the visitor to find useful information.
Understanding Your User
Understanding the user (the Web site visitor) directs key layer development. Create user segments based on demographic criteria of the prospects: Gender, age, education level, marital status, income and familiarity with technology for example. Once your user “personas” are developed, the site can be adjusted to reflect the paths the personas would take.
Creating good persona depends on traditional marketing research, including talking to individuals within the organization, such as the sales team, customer service reps and anyone who has a lot of client interaction. Ask questions such as:
- Who are we trying to persuade to use our site?
- What information does that user need to make a decision?
- What terms or phrases engage them and motivates them to make a decision?
The answers to these questions provides the semantics for compelling copy, vision for the design of engaging graphics and persuasive pages that convert visitors from user to customer.
When you persuade the visitors to your site to take the next step by creating a positive user experience they are more likely to establish a relationship with your organization. This relationship can be as simple as signing up for a newsletter, a contest or completing an online ecommerce transaction. When this happens you have created conversion, maximized sales potential and eventually realized the return on your Web site investment. All this through the manipulation of electrons, the most malleable medium of all–your company’s Web site.