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Building a Website that Works for Your Users: Part I

User Flow and Calls to Action

August 26, 2015

The joke is an old one, kicking around in various forms since 1997: “If automotive technology had kept pace with Silicon Valley, motorists could buy a V-32 engine that goes 10,000 mph at a sticker price of $50.”

Although it’s an old and inaccurate joke, it drives home an essential point - because computing power doubles every 18 months, digital development moves very quickly. And nowhere is this more evident than in web technology: the websites being built today simply would not be possible during the Netscape era launched a mere twenty years ago.

All this new technology and refinement has created entire schools of thought built around online marketing. Among them, the concepts of User Flow and Calls-to-Action (CTAs), which both existed before the internet age but took renewed importance after its creation.

Finding the Right User Flow

Without a good plan or forethought, a website can easily devolve into a mess of jumbled pages. When visitors arrive at disorganized websites, if it is not clear where they should go they usually leave after browsing a few pages.

Given the amount of money invested in building a website, those involved are well served by devoting some time in determining how users will use the site and where they will be directed, also known as the “user flow” or “customer journey”, before construction actually begins.

At MTC, we also spend a fair amount of time trying to understand the conflict between what the user sees as a goal (for instance, “how much does it cost”) vs what we as a business see as a goal (e.g., get them to call one of our sale representatives). Understanding that conflict between the user goals and the business goals is what can make or break a successful web presence.

So what are the different pieces of a customer journey? Let’s dive into it:

1. Goals
Understanding goals is especially important and should consist of defining both business and user objectives. What is it that you ultimately want your consumers to do at your website? (More than likely, buy something, or reach out to your sales team for more information) What is it that your consumers wish to accomplish by going to your site (research a product, learn more about your brand, get pricing, or maybe purchase what you are selling).

2. Establish a point of entry
So it may sound silly, but you wouldn’t have people over to your house for dinner without establishing a way for them to get there (be it through directions, or something as simple as where to park). This same idea holds true for your website, as well. It is very important to understand how people will be coming to your website. Maybe they are conducting an organic search in Google, or they’ve found you through paid advertising that you’ve purchased, or maybe they stumbled across you through Social Media outlets. Understanding how consumers have found you makes it far easier to anticipate your consumers needs.

Also understanding where they’ll enter your site is key. You can’t always assume they’ll be coming in through the home page, and will follow the path YOU want them to follow. It’s quite possible, they’ll be coming in on some random page that met certain keyword criteria on a search engine.

3. Give the right information
Nothing is more frustrating to someone trying to find information about a product or service, then getting to your website and not being able to find basic information. Your primary goal is to provide information to visitors first with benefits, value and easy to understand points (testimonials, etc). Make this process simple; forcing people to watch a 15 minute video or click through pages and pages of content just to find out more information will make your website work against your business instead of for it.

Finally, create a simple call-to-action (see below) where the visitor can inquire further or fill out their information for follow-up.

Doing this planning before constructing the site ensures each page has an definite function and doesn’t distract from that purpose. By mapping the user flow, visitors are guided to the information they are seeking and moved along the “conversion funnel” - transitioning them from visitors to interested prospects to closed sales.

Wireframes and Mockups

While the focus of today’s blog is not on wireframes and mockups, they are both very important steps to remember during the building process of your website, so we had to at least address their purpose. Wireframes are the blueprint of your website, almost like the bones of a skeleton. They are a very basic rendition of the layout of each web page. Mockups, on the other hand, are a pictorial representation of how your website will look once it is complete. Sticking with the skeleton analogy, if wireframes are the bones, mockups are the skin. At MTC, we pride ourselves on providing high-fidelity mockups that are so realistic, we’ve had a few clients try clicking on the images forgetting that they are just photos. The goal here is to make sure before all of the work is put in actually building the website that the appearance and flow all make sense. Note: If your web or app developer doesn’t provide these for you - run!

Calls-To-Action (CTAs)

In the old days of the internet, web pages acted as little more than billboards for offline businesses. Today the primary purpose of web pages is to get users to do something. And the way to do this - whether it’s click a link, download a paper, or sign up for an email list - is via a call to action (CTA).

CTAs prompt users to hand over a little of their personal information or email address by filling out a form in return for information they are seeking. Done well, they are a tremendous resource for acquiring sales leads and interested prospects.

Some simple rules to follow in making an effective CTA:

1. Use Contrast
Designers should remember getting the user to click on the CTA is the only reason this page exists at all. With this in mind, the CTA (whether it is a graphic or text) should be clearly distinguishable from the other elements on the page and not lost in it.

Color contrasts and relative sizing can be used to create an effective CTAs. While not going so far as to be distracting or gaudy, the CTA should clearly “jump” from the page. Or, at the very least, be prominent.

2. Use Incentives
Years of marketing have shown consumers react positively to “free.” They also have a fondness for bonuses, discounts, exclusive offers, and certificates. Social proof, such as “Over 10,000 downloads”, offer another compelling reason for visitors to perform the action requested on a CTA.

But again, it’s important to understand your customers and motivations. Not every customer will respond to what could be perceived as pressure sales. Too many incentives, and you could lose them forever or just as importantly, cause them to reconsider reaching out for more information.

3. Show Product
Screenshots and video of the product or service demonstrate value and give users a reason to act. Tours of the product are compelling and make it tangible.

4. Well Chosen Wording
While much attention is devoted in crafting graphic images for CTAs, the psychology of visitors often focuses more on text. Well chosen wording that is clear, specific, and action-oriented is a powerful influence.

5. Reduce Anxiety
People today face a barrage of messages from every outlet suggesting they perform one action or another. In such a world a little reassurance, such as “Takes one minute” or “We do not sell information to third parties”, can go a long way for visitors entrusting their personal information with your company.

6. Be Credible
In addition, giving away free content and being perceived less as “someone trying to sell something with a brochure,” and more as an “expert in your field with credibility,” can go a long way. This is why we’ve seen such an uptick in content marketing and sites sharing expertise on their blogs and social media. That approach to give away expertise may have struck a marketer from 10 years ago as strange (“Why are you giving away free advice?”), but today it gives credibility as well as more content for search engines to index.

While many of these may seem like simple suggestions, they are often overlooked by organizations trying to cram in as much information as possible into a dynamic, bold and interesting site. Follow these steps, and stay tuned to our blog for Part II in creating a website that works for your brand, next week.

If your company is ready to reevaluate your website or app, then it’s time to call the MTC team. Located in Boston, MA Massachusetts Technology Corporation has been voted as one of the top web development agencies in Boston by a leading research firm.

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