8 Tips for Keeping Customers Happy on Your Site

by Ed Martin

Have you taken a look at your website to see if the design and navigation could be driving customers away? Bad navigation just cost one website a customer –me. Is it costing you, too?

Don’t frustrate your customers
I found a website that offered a way to share documents online. It looked good and I was interested in trying it out, but I couldn’t find where to sign up. I hunted around and learned about all kinds of features and benefits, but eventually gave up because I couldn’t find out where to sign up for the darned thing. Too much trouble. Ever walked out of a big box store empty handed because you couldn’t find find what you wanted and no one was around to ask? Why do that to your website and why frustrate your customers?

Users are your friends
When I’m doing developer stuff something I always look at is usability, which means how easy is it for people to use your website. Here are some basic rules to follow so that you keep your site users and customers happy. Happy users become buyers. Unhappy ones leave.

1. Let your users know what is happening. If you ask them to signup for an email or a download, then give them a confirmation page so they know what to expect. If they can buy something on your site, let them know the transaction went through or got canceled. Nobody likes not knowing and they start clicking around or leave so help them out.

2. Make your site navigation simple. Customers are less likely leave your site when you have given them clear navigation and a result-driven layout.That means help them find what they want.

3. Use terminology and conventions that customers will understand. Don’t put in cryptic page labels or navigation links. It just confuses people and they’ll run away screaming. For example, people know if they click on a button they are going to buy or download or accept something. They know that underlined text means they can click on it to go somewhere else. So if you make links green instead of underlining them don’t expect people to click on them. They’ll just wonder why that text is green. Let somebody else be the innovator and do the cool stuff. Focus on making your site usable.

4. Don’t expect users to remember what icons or buttons on a page do or how to navigate around your site. Help them out. Use labels and other cues. We’re all dumb users so help us out.

5. Watch out for the signal to noise ratio. Figure out what action you want users to take – make a purchase, sign up for something, or whatever – and then make that action obvious for them. Don’t fill your pages with all kinds of extra stuff that gets in the way of what you want your users to do. Everything you have on your action should pages should be there for a reason. Designs can look good and be easy to use.

6 Chunk your pages. If you have long pages of text or long sales copy on a page, then break it up into chunks. Most online users aren’t good readers. They tend to scan pages, especially long ones so help them out. Organize your pages so that like pieces of information or inputs are grouped together and make important items stand out. This helps readers understand what you are telling them better.

7. Test your pages. If you have some kind of signup form or click throughs, check them out. NO broken links! If you send out PR or an email and bring users to your site, make sure everything is working when they get there.

8. Think like a user. You put lot of effort into making a site and content to get readers to do things. But stop and think about it from the other side. Do your research on effective website design and layout. Think about how a user sees your site and tries to use it. Don’t design a website that increases the odds customers will leave because they don’t know what to do.

Some extra reading
There is plenty of info on the web about making usable sites. Here are a few.

Wilsonweb has a video piece on 6 Best Practice Principles for Website Usability .

Jakob Nielsen has been the master of usability for a long time This is an old article but still holds true.

Finally, I’d Rather Be Writing has a fantastic list of usablity tips and resources condensed from other folks. There’s a lot there worth checking out. Enjoy!

Having a bad user experience is one of the most common reasons businesses fail. Sign up for my MicroBiz Made Simple newsletter and receive a free copy of my report Succeed By Not Failing: The 50 most common reasons businesses fail and how to avoid them.


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