Tuesday, June 8, 2010

You Are Not Above the Law: Three Things Real People Look for in a Business Website

Some rules never change, nor should they. The fact that you can read these reads proves my point.

This article is from the standpoint of someone who espouses the "path of least resistance" approach to website architecture and information dispersal. The faster your visitors can find what they are looking for, the happier everyone is.

You can be as creative as you want, but only within certain limits. Just like spoken language, there is a grammar to web navigation, replete with tacit rules, signals, indicators, and sign posts.

A good website follows all the rules of clear navigation - and your creativity can thrive within those bounds.
I always relate the story of the behavioral psychology experiment in which two groups of children were placed in two sets of circumstances and their behavior observed.

The first group of children, Group A, were placed in a fenced-in environment and given toys to play with. The second, Group B, was placed in a wide-open field and given the same toys.

Group A was observed to have had more fun, because there were limits within which their creativity could be expressed. Group B had less fun, because there were no limits. They were wary and disoriented.

Freedom is freedom only when there are rules. Every musician knows this. Miles Davis said you should learn all the musical scales so well that you can forget them.

You must standardize. There is nothing saying you can't have personality without following the commonly accepted signals of web navigation. Here are three non-optional elements of a business website.

1. Homepage
A business website should have a home or landing page with enough information for the reader to learn everything they need to know about the essence of what the business does. This means there should be enough search engine optimized body copy there for Internet users to find the business, but it should also project the brand, attitude or essence of the business.

Directly or indirectly, the homepage body copy should convey:

  • something about the mission of the company,
  • what the company can do for the user,
  • who their typical user (target audience) is, and
  • an introduction to the website.
The body copy of the homepage should incorporate links to the relevant sections of the website. Think of the homepage body copy as the welcome wagon and tour guide to the rest of the website. It should take readers by the arm and lead them to where they should go next - all the while informing them about the company and, if applicable, leading them to an action (purchase, download, further click-through, what-have-you.)
2. About
Every business website must have an About page that is easy to locate from anywhere on the website. When people click through to the About page, they are looking for fast access to
the essence of the company,

  • what it does,
  • where it is located,
  • who is behind it, and
  • what the company offers to the target audience.
Give the readers what they are looking for. Don't hide.
3. Products

If applicable, a prominent link to the Products page should be easy to access from anywhere on the website. Make it easy to find your products at any time, and you will make sales.

About the Author: Will Conley is a copywriter who feels that no matter what your profession, you should learn the rules so well that you can forget them.