This is not some deep and thoughtful question about the meaning of life – it’s the question you should be asking every visitor to your website.
Of course, that’s not possible, but when you’re revamping your website your web designer should be asking you what people want to do when they visit your website.
The answers are varied, but designing a website that works needs to keep the visitor front and centre when planning:
- What goes where
- What information – and how much of it – is provided at what stage
- How to get from where they are now to where they want to go with the least effort
- How to ensure they find what they want without breaking a sweat
In other words, to quote Steve Krug*, “Don’t make me think!” This is all about usability (UX).
See your site through the visitor’s eyes
Your website is there to promote your business and you’ll have your own ideas of what you want people to do, but don’t make assumptions about whether your visitor wants the same thing you do.
Here are a few different reasons people visit your website.
If your site is well set-up for search engine optimisation (SEO) and someone has searched for a specific product or service, they may arrive on your website as a result. They probably won’t land on your home page; the search engine will deliver them to the page that features whatever they were searching for.
The learning from this is that every page on your website needs to stand alone and get that page’s message across quickly and accurately without the visitor having to work hard to find out if they’re in the right place.
This means headlines that engage the visitor and reassure them that this page will give them what they want.
They may have met you at a networking event (in person or virtually) and decided to check you out. That might include on a social platform like LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, etc. This visitor is probably trying to get an idea of what you do and whether it’s something they need or could recommend to others.
This visitor needs to be reassured that your website is congruent with the message they’ve already received. Your site needs to look professional and reinforce what you said at the meeting or on your profile.
This group covers a wide range of visitors.
- Some are there simply to get information – maybe for research for a project or dissertation.
- Some are researching their options (or on behalf of someone else, a partner or boss, for example) to make comparisons before making a decision.
- Some are trying to work out if this is something they actually want and trying to find out enough to make a decision.
While these people are not necessarily buyers, they may be influencers, so your website needs to satisfy them too.
Professional UX testing usually gives the testers a task and asks them to go to a website and carry out that task. That might be:
- Find the company’s phone number
- Find out if they have this product [product name]
- If you wanted to perform [task], what would you do?
- What would you expect to happen?
Then they watch how the user gets on and also often ask questions about how they felt about the process, what they were thinking as they carried out the tasks, etc.
While a small business doesn’t have the budget (or need) for the high level UX testing big companies with websites running to hundreds of pages have, it’s wise to think about your visitor, why are they on your website? Is it a good experience for them?
*Don’t make me think! by Steve Krug is an excellent (and easy read) visitor-focused, practical book on website usability.