When did you last have the experience of going to a website and not being able to find what you went there for? It’s either really easy to recall because it just happened, or it’s quite tough because it happens so often.
On the whole websites are a lot easier to use than they were 5-10 years ago but it still happens all too frequently that you get to the site you need and you can’t find the information that you want.
Once you know who your visitors are the next thing to consider is what they are trying to achieve.
Once you know this you can set out your website to make it as easy as possible for people to achieve their goals.
Let’s look at an example (it’s fictional and shortened!).
Imagine that you are setting up a website for a daycare nursery for babies and pre-school children. You are very excited to offer a play-based educational environment, meal provision and you’re open until 6.30pm.
Following the process I recommend you would already have identified what you want the website for and who your intended audience is. Let’s imagine that the answers are as follows (in brief for the sake of the example, in reality they could be more detailed):
- Why do I want this website?
- To inform parents who are looking for a nursery what we offer, i.e. our ethos and how we will spend time with their children and what we will be doing.
- To promote the nursery and increase business.
- Who are my audience (who am I speaking to)?
- Parents and guardians (male and female) who are in a position to pay for pre-school and daytime childcare;
- who want a play-based educational experience for their young children;
- who work during the day most days of the week.
Now we can look into what they want to do when they visit your website i.e. their goals.
By estimating, by speaking to existing customers and people who are looking for childcare we might find that they want the following information and facilities (I’ve shortened this list – you could imagine a lot more items!):
- Opening times
- How many staff you have and their training levels
- How many children you care for at any one time
- The staff-child ratio
- The types of activities the children can do
- The age range of the children that you are able to care for
- Whether you will provide food for the children and what kind
- Where you are (is there any green/outdoor play space, is there parking nearby)
- Do you have any open days or can they arrange a tour of the facility
- How to get in touch with you
- How much it costs and whether they can pay in installments, if there are any concessions and whether they can pay fees online.
- What is your childcare approach/ethos
That’s quite a list. If you put all of that on one page it’s too much information to digest. You would want to present it in separate sections of your website. This means you will need to create those sections somehow – you’ll have to decide what pieces of information are related to each other and put those together. How might you go about doing this?
The way you can go about organising this information is, again, to think about it from the point of view of your prospective nursery customer.
In our example we’ve established a list of things that prospective nursery customers are trying to achieve but they aren’t all happening at once – some things will happen first and others later. What is the sequence of events in looking for childcare?
Well this raises another question and shows us a gap in the list above. We don’t know from that list what the prospective customers’ main priority is. For example is it the nursery ethos or the cost?
Let’s imagine that you’ve discovered, by speaking to people, that they chose based on the ethos and childcare principles followed by the nursery.
You can use this knowledge to place that information somewhere clearly visible. It would make the most sense to put this in a place that they can see straight away when they open up your site.
For example, you might decide to make a short statement of your principles and childcare ethos and put it in on your home page so a parent could decide within seconds of looking at this page whether it’s worth looking at anything else that you offer.
This is one example of using the knowledge of your audience’s goals to make a decision on your content and the placement of it.
You could then look at each of the other prospective customer goals you have discovered and go through the same process of asking:
- Do I need further information to decide on how important this is to a person
- When might someone be interested in knowing this? Do they need to know it straight away or after they have decided my service is worth looking into.
- Is this information related to other pieces of information
- e.g. you may decide to put Opening times, contact details and location together
Each time you make a decision on how to group your information and where to place it you would base it on how it matches the goals of your prospective customers.
How does it help you to use the goals of your visitors to make decisions about your website content and its presentation?
Let’s consider our example: people who are less interested in the nursery ethos and more interested in costs may quickly look at a different website. People who are more interested in ethos will be more inclined to look into what else you offer. You get a high quality site visit from someone who is really interested in what you do.
Because you have prioritised the information that is relevant to them it will be much simpler for prospective customers to find what they are looking for quickly.
Interested customers who found what they wanted easily get a good feeling about you, this raises their trust in your services and increases the probability of them getting in touch.
When they do get in touch they are already feeling positive towards you.
Do you know what your customers are trying to achieve when they visit your website?