First impressions matter in the Internet world. Your index page should be planned to be useful and inviting. This article covers the importance of clearing the virtual “clutter” from your website to ensure that the visitor is encouraged to stay.
This four part series was developed by a Kentucky writer, marketing consultant, and Virtual Assistant to help her real estate, Realtor ®, and other small business clients succeed.
Weave A Winning Web (PART I)
How do you woo visitors and keep them on your website? How do you encourage them
to click through to secondary pages? You provide an elegant but comfortable, easy-to-navigate site with efficient, informative content. This first in a series of articles will discuss how first impressions and “virtual clutter” can help or hurt your chances of turning clicks into closes.
First impressions are a direct result of your planning or lack of planning. Determining your layout and navigation is the first (and most important) step to successful web site development. This step is frequently overlooked. Anxious to get a web presence, people fail to plan. They place content, graphics, and getting online above planning. But planning is the key. After all, how can you give the visitor a proper tour of your site if you don’t have the tour planned?
Your index page should serve as your butler: greeting your visitors, welcoming them properly, and insuring their comfort and convenience. It should NOT pelt them with “info-bits.”
Your navigation tree should serve as a tour guide, offering options based on the visitor’s interests, gracefully leading them into your site, and remaining constantly available to
help them find their way. It should not send them down blind alleys from which there is no logical return…and it should not suddenly abandon them.
First Impressions Matter – Avoid Virtual Clutter
You have probably visited an overly decorated or extremely cluttered home — one so full of knickknacks or “stuff” that you feel smothered. In a place like that, it’s almost impossible to be comfortable and relax.
“Too busy” websites do the same thing to their visitors. These sites have flashing gifs, they have scrolling elements, and they send a visitor into visual overload. “Virtual clutter” makes it difficult for a visitor’s eyes to find a place to rest. Eyes jump from this item to that item while the mind tries to process each competing capsule of information. There is no clear delineation
between the most important elements and those that are incidental. These websites create stress in visitors.
Real estate sites seem particularly vulnerable to the cluttered approach because there is so much information to cover. Don’t let your site become one of these. This category of website
is already appallingly well-represented on the Internet.
Don’t let your website fall victim to “beginner’s scourge.” That is, just because you discovered this neat new graphic or this fantastically funky background doesn’t mean you should feel compelled to use it on your business site. If the urge is overwhelming… sign up for a freebie
personal website and go nuts. Keep your business site tidy.
As you begin to plan your website, remember that it isn’t merely an electronic brochure and it’s not just a marketing piece – it is the virtual equivalent of a physical storefront. But, unlike a physical location, if you don’t attract a visitor the first time they see your site, they probably
won’t be back. Ever.
This phenomenon, unique to the web, is called “churning” and it represents a significant difference between a “virtual” and a “brick and mortar” location. A physical storefront means that “passers by” will most likely continue to pass by – through geographic default. On the web, however, they aren’t required to go past your site to get where they are going.
The same way you advise your clients to enhance their “curb appeal” – you should enhance your own website appeal to ensure the best, most inviting first impression.
Come back next month and we will discuss the specifics of layout and navigation to weave your winning web!
© Copyright 2003 by Angela Allen Parker of Wicked Wordcraft
This article first appeared in the April 2003 “Word Magic” column at www.epowernews.com.