Are visitors to your website feeling like they’re walking on Easy Street, or lost on a road to nowhere? Easy Street is the goal when it comes to designing navigation that strategically and intuitively leads visitors through your website, microsite or landing page.
I recently had the opportunity to review nearly a dozen nonprofit organizations’ websites and found several common autobahns and roadblocks. Some led me right to the most important and interesting information, while others frustrated me to the point of no return. As you look at your own online presence to determine how well your digital assets are performing both on their own and as part of the larger whole of your integrated marketing strategy, I encourage you to consider the following best practices:
#1 – Make your website easy to access.
In today’s world, your website needs to be multi-browser and multi-device friendly. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer no longer reigns as the browser of choice for many users. Mozilla’s Firefox and Apple’s Safari are also favorites because they tend to perform at a more advanced level of functionality and design. And a growing percentage of Internet traffic is generated from mobile smartphones and tablets. If your website was built several years ago, it may not display well in newer browsers, making your visitors’ experience less than desired. Also, if your site hasn’t been properly tested on an agreed-upon number of popular browsers, versions of those browsers, and devices, you may have a large number of visitors trying to reach you without success. Keeping your website up-to-date from a technical perspective is as important as making sure your driveway and parking area are clear of obstructions.
Making sure your website knows “search engine speak” is also very important. An experienced search engine marketing strategist knows all the best practices as they continue to evolve and change along with the expanded sophistication of search engines like Google, Bing, and others. Along with ensuring your meta tags and other important code are in place, use headings and bolded words within your text that highlight key words your visitors may be searching. It’s one more way for search engines to find your site and give you a higher ranking in search results.
#2 – Welcome your visitors.
Remember your home page is the online version of your front porch and entryway. Go ahead and put your best foot forward. Design is so important. Make your site beautiful and purposeful. Show them where they are and where they should go next without encountering dead ends (i.e., forcing them to use the back button). Keep your main navigation links in one easy-to-spot location regardless of what size screen your visitors are viewing the site on. Organizing your information following the “like things together” philosophy and thinking about your content from your visitors’ perspective is also helpful in making them feel at home.
#3 – Keep your visitors engaged.
Have you ever been told the best way to make a new friend is ask a stranger a question about themselves and listen? The same is true for your online visitors. Despite common practice, your website is not all about you. Address your visitors’ needs and desires in your content. Give them your contact information. Allow them to easily and quickly ask questions, offer their feedback, and tell you more about themselves.
It can also be helpful to imagine your visitors as though they are sitting in your living room. If they are bored, frustrated, or not an active participant in the conversation, they will probably leave the party early and most likely not return. Keep your content current and emotionally interesting. Emotions drive behaviors and behaviors drive actions. When creating your content, think about what you ultimately want your visitors to do and work your way back from there. Offer your visitors entertainment and activities as these features best complement your goals. Blogs, forums, video, social media connections, and other special features are great catalysts for engagement.
#4 – Thank visitors for stopping by and offer to stay in touch.
Do you remember reading in old novels about the Victorian custom of leaving your calling card upon visiting a residence? The practice was a necessity then and a great idea today. Make sure visitors to your website have an opportunity to leave their contact information by offering them a sign-up form for further information. You can follow up with them directly about their specific need, build your email marketing database with interested individuals who have given you permission to contact them, and learn whether you are capturing the interest of your target audience. Don’t forget to send them an automatic thank-you email for sharing their information, and also make your social media links easy to access as an additional venue for continued relationship building. Perhaps the most important thing to remember is to follow through on your promise to stay in touch.
At Trozzolo, we have a comprehensive team who can help you customize the best way to apply these best practices for your business or organization. Give us a call. We’d love to chat with you.
— Christel Gollnick, Account Vice President/River City Studio