How frustrating is it when you go to a website, only to find it cluttered with a bunch of distracting design elements and confusing navigation? Even worse, within the first 10 seconds of visiting the site, you notice your pop-up blocker is having a field day, blocking multiple ads. The website experience is just the opposite of engaging because it is bombarding you with images and advertisements – and preventing you from immersing in the website experience. You quickly leave this cluttered, poorly conceived website, while making a mental note to avoid this URL in the future.
From a web developer and visitor standpoint, let’s examine what went wrong with the website experience described above:
1. Distracting design. Websites, much like any other artwork or graphic design, are subjective. Yet, as a webmaster or designer, you know that there are certain established design practices that should be followed such as: consistent site header and logo, utilization of basic design principles (repetition, contrast, proximity, and alignment), balance of text/graphics/white space and highly-readable content with a contrast between text and background. When these principles are ignored, websites can look disjointed, cluttered and disreputable. Visitors are overwhelmed by too many choices and go elsewhere.
2. Confusing navigation. Just as poor visual design will leave you cold, confusing site architecture and navigation is also a common and frustrating problem for website visitors. From the navigation bar being inconsistently placed on each page to counter-intuitive topics and click-paths, few things are more frustrating than taking the time to visit a website, only to discover you cannot find certain information. Best practices include placing the navigation in a consistent place on every page, relevant, intuitive organization of subject matter, an easy way to navigate home and footer navigation.
3. Pop ups or intrusive advertisements. While companies want to promote their products and services, most of us find few things more annoying than pop up ads. Pop ups are typically advertisements that open in a scaled-down browser window with only the Close, Minimize and Maximize commands. These ads create resentment because they block the screen, making it difficult to get to the information or pages you’re looking for, until you close or minimize them. These obtrusive tactics are the polar opposite of engaging because they are initiated without permission and delay/derail your site search.
Having made a sound argument against website strategies that leave your visitors cold, what practices should you consider employing to increase website engagement and viewer loyalty? One idea is to create engagement by letting the visitor control the entire web experience. Provide multi-media ways to educate visitors such as videos, social media profiles, enlargeable or interactive imagery and downloadable brochures.
Another suggestion is to engage readers with focused, compelling and personalized website content. Rather than telling each viewer that your company is the greatest, create clear funnels that ask inviting questions such as, “What are you interested in shopping for or learning about?”
Finally, explore ways to utilize the latest technology to create a more personalized experience. Many companies are discovering that digital characters enhance and guide the visitor’s experience. All of these engagement strategies are based upon the premise of letting the viewer decide how he/she wants to interact with the website. In doing so, you’re empowering each person to create a unique visitor experience. Website visits last longer, bounce rates decrease, and conversions increase which, as you know, is welcome news for any webmaster.