Is Your Website Hot?
When you were a kid, did you ever play a game where one person was blindfolded, and was supposed to find something, with hints from the other people in the room: "You're getting warmer…nope, you just went cold…yep, getting warmer…now you are really, really hot!"
That's what it's like for your website customer. The customer is the person with a blindfold, groping around, and your website navigation and content are the people in the room.
In the Google-driven purchase - which is how most purchases are conducted now - the customer has never been to your site before. They've never bought from you before. When they first come to your site, the first thing they see is either hot, warm, or cold. That's why home pages are declining in importance - and product-specific landing pages are increasingly important. When you land on a product-specific landing page, you are HOT. When you come in to a company's home page - in the course of searching for something specific - you are usually cold. If you're lucky, you might be warm.
Obviously, the "hotter" your website - "hot" being how quickly the customer can lay their eyes on the product you have for sale - the more sales you will make. Here are some questions for you:
- Have you ever mapped your customer's groping path to your products using visitor paths in your web logs? Have you started with your most popular product, and traced the pathway backwards, from "purchase product" back to "first comes to site"? How many clicks does it take for them to find the product? If it's more than two, your site is not hot.
- Have you purposefully set up search and landing page strategies so they can type in their search phrase, and arrive immediately at what you sell? Is someone in charge of this effort?
- Is your navigation straightforward, or a hopeless mish-mash of disorganized products in counter-intuitive categories? Is your menu like one of those kitchen junk drawers, filled with things that you couldn't figure out how to categorize?
- Have you ever asked your customers how they'd expect to find your products in your navigation tree?
- Do you follow navigation conventions - left nav, top tabs, site map on the bottom, content in the middle, special stuff on the right? If you are deviating, why? And, is the resulting layout completely clear?
- Is it obvious, when they come to your site, what you sell and how you sell it?
- Does the person always know where they are, and can they get from one area to another quickly, with one click, no matter where they are on the site?
- Have you had someone get on the phone with customers, and interview them as they grope around your site, sharing a screen, visually following and recording their experience, while getting feedback from them? This is one of the most effective ways to find out what you need to, so you can make your site as "hot" as possible.
I'd like to show you a hot site, a warm site, and a cold site. I'm starting with the hot site so you can see what a hot site looks like.
Book Cover Design by Kerry Ross. Even though the navigation is somewhat unconventional, you know immediately what she does for a living, and how she can help you. She even publishes her prices right on her website. The only glitch I found on this site is what happens when you click on Portfolio. You go to a page with a lot of books, which is fine, but if you click on one of those books to learn more about what she did for that book, you are taken to a page that describes a service she provides (I eventually figured out that she must be inferring that she performed that service for that book client - but that was not clear). I'm also not a great fan of auto-play audio on sites. The rest of the site, however, establishes instant credibility, and is very, very HOT. No barriers to the sale. All questions answered. By the way, I sent her an email, and she called me within a half hour.
Hohne-Werner Design. Brrrrrrrr. This is so cold. What does this person do? Oh, wait. Where is my cup of coffee, so I can put my feet up and contemplate the universe while I read this poetry on the home page?
Don't be dreamy. Your customer isn't. Your customer is on a quest. Your customer is climbing a mountain, not contemplating them. Just as a reminder, another way to be super cold is to be under construction.
I got to this page via a link for "featured vendors" on the Independent Book Publisher's Association site. There are only a few companies there, so this is a high-quality click-through. Shameful. Are there other "under construction" sites left on the web? There shouldn't be ANY. A link is a promise - and "under construction" breaks that promise. As Gerry McGovern would say, "Ha, ha, fooled ya!"
Illumination Graphics. Warmer, but not hot. This site doesn't show any books. The content on the home page could be selling anything: "We help companies grow and flourish." This person does general graphic design as well as book design. The link in the book publisher's association site should have gone to a landing page for books, not to this generic home page. Dark backgrounds with reverse type don't work. Plus, this designer is inviting me to watch the flash intro, as if I cared. Lots of mistakes on this site, including the name of the company, which is buried in the middle of the page. So you don't even know if you've arrived at Illumination Graphics when you first get there. Not Hot.
How hot is your site?