You’ve invested in your website and it’s looking good. The design is attractive, the navigation is intuitive, the site is well-organized, the content is rich and site visitors can easily request help if needed.
Why, then, don’t your customers use your website as much as you thought they would?
One of the best and simplest ways to find out what’s wrong is to listen to your customers. If they are not telling you explicitly through phone calls, e-mails and survey responses, then arrange to observe customers interacting with your website.
Here are a few of the problems that you may uncover.
1. Customers cannot complete transactions
Customers expect an end-to-end experience on your website. They want to initiate and complete an entire transaction from initial thought (e.g., “Hey, I need to…pay a bill, make a reservation, schedule an appointment, place an order...”) through final confirmation (“Success! You have…paid a bill, completed an order…”).
Unconvinced of the business case for such functionality and concerned about site security, you may be hesitant to spend money on site features that seem unnecessary. You might rationalize that certain needs could prompt customers to make phone calls or visit your office, resulting in meaningful interactions. Then, these warm connections will help you and your staff members to nurture relationships, uncover additional needs, and generate even more sales, online and offline.
In reality, customers abandon the website, grudgingly complete transactions offline (or not at all), and look for more user-friendly companies and websites.
Solution: Discover what transactions are standard in your industry and reasonably expected by customers. Listen to your sales team and customer service representatives who may have called your attention to functionalities necessary to compete for your customer’s attention. Allocate resources to upgrading and expanding the experience on your website.
2. Your site search function does not routinely return relevant results
If your website is content-rich and contains diverse elements (products, e-books, whitepapers, case studies, blog posts, etc.), then your customers may have difficulty finding what they need through a simple query. That is, a product search might generate results for case studies, whitepapers and products all mixed together.
Even e-commerce sites that deliver product results only don’t always give customers what they want, especially if features desired by customers are not tagged properly.
Solution: Don’t expect customers to be experts in Boolean search methods. Create user-friendly search pages that make advanced searches easy and intuitive. These typically provide a combination of fill-in-the-blank spaces, drop-down boxes and check-boxes using terms that customers understand. (See examples at Paperback Swap, Allrecipes and Flickr.)
Evaluate search queries and adapt your site’s methods to customer preferences. Place identifying tags on products, articles, etc. so that results displayed will be relevant to customer needs.
3. Specialized skills are required to create custom products
Customers are eager to create customized items, such as photo books of special events, T-shirts for recreational sports teams and party invitations. But they become frustrated with myriad choices and complex design processes. You may have pushed too many design decisions to the customer, whereas the customer is expecting design expertise from your business.
Sure, your website is super-functional and allows customers to make intricate designs with out-the-ordinary specifications for colors, placement, etc. But the plethora of possibilities for uniqueness is not as highly valued as speed and simplicity.
Solution: Create a design process that allows quick uploading of artwork along with simple selection of templates for a custom look. Give options for customizing the final product but make choices obvious. Keep selections to a minimum. List the number of design steps and show customers where they are in the process to encourage completion rather than abandonment in the middle of a project or close to its finish.
4. Your username and password conventions are complicated
If your username and password requirements are stringent (e.g., “must contain at least one capital letter, one symbol, one lowercase letter and one number”), then customers can’t use their default names (the ones they use for most websites) and tend to forget their login information. And if they can’t recall these details without effort and a lengthy password-recovery process, then they won’t be able to use your website. And if they can’t get the information they need, then they will most likely move along to another, easier-to-access source very quickly.
Solution: Unless your business deals with highly confidential information (such as financial or healthcare data), forgo quirky requirements that are more likely to block customers than encourage exploration. Match the strengths of username and password barriers to the sensitivity of stored information and the premium nature of content.
5. You are not listening…enough
As always, offline and online, pay attention to your customers. No matter how much upfront effort you have dedicated to the design of your website, understand that you may need to make adjustments after its launch. Listen, observe and notice patterns. Pinpoint obstacles to successful interaction. Fix what doesn’t work for customers.