Walk a Mile In Your Visitor’s Shoes

Walk a Mile In Your Visitor’s Shoes

When you put yourself in your visitor’s shoes, you end up finding out just how focused on your goals your site really is.

Start by identifying a goal that matters to your site and where your traffic or engagement metrics are weak. If you have a content site, then the goal might be getting people to the Subscription page or getting them to download an ebook. If its an ecommerce site, then you might want to look at Add to Cart or increasing site search usage.

[box type=”info” border=”full”]Remember: This is not meant as a full review of usability. You are looking for places where small changes can lead to quick wins (e.g. increasing the number of visitors that sign-up for your newsletter).[/box]

Take a Walk

Now that you have your goal, you want to focus on your first impressions. How does it feel to arrive on the goal page? How hard is it to “step” into the goal funnel.

Think of your visitors as reaching their desired page/goal in 1 of 2 ways:

  1. Landing Directly
  2. Navigating


1. Landing Directly

This traffic could be direct load, search or referreral. These people may have done some earlier research, typed a query in Google or followed a link from a site they trust. They may be return visitors that you want to become active members of your community. The point is that they didn’t get to your goal area by accident and they have expectations/experiences about how your site works. You need to make sure that they know what comes next.

Here are some things to check:

  • Is the topic of the page easily identifiable?
  • Is there a prominent call to action? (Buy Now, Subscribe, etc).
  • Do they have to close a pop-up before seeing what they came for?
  • Is there a breadcrumb to remind them where they are?
  • Are there any unnecessary distractions (e.g. banners that draw the eye from content, adsense links that don’t fit the page content) that lead away from the page?
  • Does your action button work? (make sure you submit the form, download the content, Add to Cart)

The importance of each question will vary based on your site, but remember that delivery and clarity are your best friends here. Nothing will throw a user off more than feeling stranded or mislead. If they are on the page where your goal happens then make sure they know what you want them to do and why it’s worth it to them.

2. Navigating

You want to see how difficult it is for a visitor to start from scratch and get to something that matters to them (and you). They could be new visitors, they may have searched using a very generic query or they may have followed a link in a friends’ feed to your site. The key thing to think about is how do you get them to stay/subscribe/download/buy with as little thinking as possible.

Note: You should try this starting from your homepage and from a couple of your top categories.

Here are some things to check:

  • Whats the first piece of clickable content you see?
    • What’s the first link in your top and/or left-navigation? Is that a popular destination? Will they find something to keep them engaged (e.g. a good selection of products, some recently written posts)?
  • Is site search easy to find?
    • Did site search make finding things easier?
  • Is live chat easy to see/use?
  • Are you drawing a lot of attention to low-ROI areas of the site? For example, is the top half of the page filled with banners for clearance or discount items.
  • Can you reduce the number of options, so that visitors are funneled toward your best content or your goal?
    • Does it take you more than 5 seconds to see the navigation option that leads to your goal?
  • Is your brand name and USP highly-visible?
  • Can you see some trust marks without scrolling
  • Did your first click in the navigation take you to the right place?
  • Do your navigation options seem redundant? Are you looking at a list of synonyms instead of a list of unique options?

Redundant Navigation Example 1:  Jewelry| Fine Jewelry | Unique Jewelry

Redundant Navigation Example 2: Furniture | Home Furnishings | Home Decor

The thing to focus on here is that your visitors are in the park, but haven’t made it to the picnic yet. You need to make sure that they have markers so they don’t get lost and that getting lost doesn’t lead to an exit. Make sure that your major goals are accessible from several different navigation paths and that “helper” tools like site search and live chat actually help.

You Need Real Experience To Understand Real Users

This post is about getting some hands-on experience with your site. You need surveys, user-testing, visualizations and other tools to understand your site as a whole and make decisions based on data. But adding a layer of manual review will keep you from overlooking little things that often piss visitors off. Things like pop-ups that don’t close; menu options that don’t tell you anything and color schemes that make a page impossible to read are all things that you can’t see in the numbers. Yes, you can see the bounce rate or the low number of pageviews but you will only understand why when you load the page(s) and really take a look.

If you have some other low-tech tactics that you think make a big difference, then share them in the comments. I’ll round up any that we get and do a followup post later in the month.

Image courtesy of Crossroads Dispatches

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