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I promised I’d write this blog, after ranting a few weeks ago about the 10Things I Hate About Your Website. If you missed that one, go back and read it now. I’ll wait. Then when you’re feeling sufficiently admonished and browbeaten, come back and check this article out. I’m about to tell you what it is that makes me grin and want to sing Kumbaya when I visit a website.
Much like that last post, this one isn’t an exhaustive list, but it’s a good place to start. If you’re already doing these things then I love you and your website. If not, think about how you can work some of these tidbits in, so your next visitor will be more likely to sing your praises than shout your failings. Loudly. On Twitter. Or in a long blog post.
1. You Tell Me What To Do
Some of the best websites I’ve visited are the ones where the first thing on the page in big bold typeface is “Download a free trial now” or “Sign up for our monthly tips and tricks” or “Fill out this form and we’ll call you to set up an appointment.” Do you know what that does? It makes it easy. I no longer have to fish, surf, think or otherwise wonder, however subconsciously, what to do next.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that what you want people to do is so obvious that you don’t need to spell it out.
We’re a species of decision-making zombies. Most of us are so busy thinking about what we’re going to make for dinner, where the cat is and what we should post next on Facebook, that at any given time only a few brain cells are devoted to the thing we’re actually doing.
The more brainless you can make it for me to be on your website, the better. So tell me what to do. Make it big. Put it first. I love it.
2. Your Contact Form Is Effortless
The only thing I want to do when I attempt to contact you via email is contact you via email. I don’t want to help you with your marketing by telling you how I found your site. I don’t want to fill in my phone number and fax, because I’m sending you an email. I don’t want to select from 47 menu options. Here’s what you get to ask me: My name, my email address and what I want. Few things are as wonderful as a short contact form.
The other thing I love about a good contact form is that it works. If you are going to require information from me, please tell me. And if I make a mistake, don’t blank out my form, especially if it’s got 47 questions.
And whatever you do, please, do not make me decipher one of those ghastly Captcha codes. Spam is your problem, not mine. I love it simple. I love it fast. I love it when it does what it’s supposed to do, and that’s submit my info so I can get in touch with you.
3. It Looks Good
I was researching something on Google and found a ton of websites purporting to answer my burning questions so I clicked on a few. Here’s what I found: lots of websites had the information I needed. Here’s what I found, more importantly: I didn’t spend more than six-point-one seconds on any site that wasn’t attractive. I am a terrible, horrible, superficial human being. So are you.
Oh, and you are not a unique snowflake, either. Lots of people do what you do, probably do it well and have relevant information. But not everyone can build a site that makes me want to stay.
One of the sites I found was a bunch of text with some red highlights, a lot of underlines and the occasional burst of ALL CAPS TO MAKE THE POINT SUPER SPECIAL! It made my brain hurt so I left. The next site I found had everything in neat boxes with a soothing background color and cute little owl graphic. Don’t ask me what the owl had to do with anything. It was cute. So I stayed.
Design is subjective, so you’re not going to make everyone fall in love with your site. But you should at least be trying to create a pleasant experience for your visitors. If someone has put an iota of thought into making your site look nice and clean and modern, I’m loving it right out of the gate.
4. I Can Find Stuff
You know that research project? The sites I loved (and used) were the ones that had navigation that made sense. In fact, one of them had a menu item called “Start Here”. Do you know what I did? I started there. And found good stuff. And even subscribed to their email updates!
Your site should have simple and obvious navigation, too. Want me to browse your selection of decorative pillows? Show me a category called “Decorative Pillows” and I’m in heaven.
So many retailers get this wrong, with overly broad categories or overly cute categories. I actually visited a website once that called their comforter category “Fluffy Stuff”.
I love sites that make it easy. If I’m searching for a sweet potato recipe and it’s right there in full color on your site, I’m going to be making a little dinner. If I’m looking for someone to fix my air conditioner and your site has a beautiful button called “Get your air conditioner fixed”, I’m going to call you. Figure out what’s important to your customers. Make it easy for them to find it.
5. You’ve Got Gigantic Facebook And Twitter Icons
One of the biggest reasons I love your website is because I never have to go there again. If you give me the option, I will fan you on Facebook, follow you on Twitter, add you to my Google+ Circles, connect with you on LinkedIn… just put those icons in front of me and I’m a happy clicker.
Websites can be informational, educational, functional… but they’re not you. And I want to do business with you, not your website.
So when we can connect in the world outside of your website, I’m thrilled. That means two things. First, you need a social presence. Second, you’ve got to put those icons on your site. Big. And obvious. Don’t make me search your site for them, or worse yet, don’t make me search Google for them!
One website I’ve been to recently actually asks people to fan them on Facebook but neglects to provide a link or any indication of how we are to find them on Facebook. Crazy. Give me icons and make me happy.
6. You’ve Got RSS
This applies primarily to content-driven sites like blogs (you do have a blog, don’t you?), news sites or sites that offer frequent and/or regular updates to customers. And it is relevant to the fact that if you’ve got an RSS feed, I can mostly avoid your website. Which I love. Hey, I’m busy!
RSS, for those less geeky, stands for Really Simple Syndication and it’s basically a feed that delivers your content to me, whenever it becomes available.
Why is this perfect?
Because I’m busy, damnit! With RSS I keep track of dozens and dozens of websites without ever visiting a one. Blogs, news, recipes, product updates, podcasts, you name it. Content is delivered, in my case, to Google’s RSS Reader, which aggregates it into a super easy, organized one-stop-shop of beautiful information. Then I can keep track of what’s happening with you and your business on my time, in my way. Now that’s love.
7. It’s Got Personality
This will be easier to explain by way of a negative. Do you know how when you visit just about any financial planner’s website, or attorney’s website, or accountant’s website, it’s words after words after more boring words of blah blah same old blah? It’s like someone went to great lengths to write the most vanilla, boring, brain-numbing content possible. Every professional wants to be taken seriously and display a level of expertise.
But you can do that without buying the “I’m a boring drone and so is my website” template.
This isn’t exclusive to lawyers and number crunchers, either. Pick a retailer. Pick a photographer. Pick an IT consultant. Snore. I bet you’re not a boring drone, are you? So why is your website like that?
The sites I love are friendly, chatty, interesting. They talk to me. The best websites are almost sort of… human. All things being equal (remember, you are not a unique snowflake – we’ve all got lots of equals) I’ll do business with someone with an interesting site over the boring counterpart every time.
8. It Doesn’t Scream At Me
Another positive by way of a negative. You know those sites that have a lot of caps, and things underlined, and exclamation points? And those sites that flash, blink, scroll, jump and move? And the ones that start with a video of a woman with really white teeth grinning at me and telling me why something or other is sooooo amazing? Yeah, don’t do that.
I love sites that just are. They’re simple, clean, understated… normal.
These sites are the difference between going out bar hopping with your Jersey Shore girlfriends on a Friday night and having a really good dessert at a high-class restaurant with your soulmate.
I love websites that are calm and soothing. That speak in everyday language. That make me want to come in and sit awhile with a cup of tea. You can offer free shipping that doesn’t zoom across the screen in big red letters. You can get me to sign up for your newsletters without following my every move with a floating email box.
You can even write meaningful prose without a single exclamation point. I don’t want to be frazzled and stressed out after six seconds on your home page. I love calm, easy sites that invite me in instead of shouting me out.
9. There’s A Picture Of A Cute Cat On It
Ha! Bet I got you to read this paragraph. I’m only kidding by the way, unless you’re a vet, pet sitter, or you’ve got some other very good reason to have a picture of a cat on your site. The point I wanted to make is that if you’ve got catchy headlines, it’s going to make me read more.
Did you know that lots of people only read headlines? I love sites that break it down and make it easy for me to scan, pick and choose. I especially love sites that have interesting headlines that make me want to do more than scan. If the headlines are interesting, chances are the content is, too.
10. It Works
This is so underrated. A “working” website does more than just load in a browser – although if you can get your site working in multiple versions of multiple browsers, I love you.
A site that works will work on my desktop and on my laptop and on my teeny monitor and on my widescreen monitor and especially on my phone. I do most of my browsing from my phone, so if your site isn’t usable on it, I’m probably going to ignore it.
A site that works has links that go where they’re supposed to go and aren’t broken. It has a contact form that tells me how much information to fill in, then submits that information to you so that I get a response. It also has photos and graphics instead of little broken X’s where photos and graphics should be.
It loads (and doesn’t make me wait forever for it to do so). It loads properly (no mangled headers or cut-off footers or text that overlaps photos because someone couldn’t get the CSS right). It loads fully (no empty spaces where content should be, but instead hangs there in indefinite limbo).
A site that works will come up whether or not I type in “www” before your web address. I’m smart enough (because I’ve seen enough sites fail to work properly) that if one version doesn’t work, I’ll try the other. But how many of your customers will think to do this?
There’s a very simple way to make sure your site works: use it. If you use your site and something bugs you or fails to function the way you want it to, then get it fixed. I promise I’ll love you for it.
How did you do? Is your site awesome enough to laugh at this list? Did I leave off any stellar website qualities that make you love a site?