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Chuck Fields
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Is your website driving away customers? 3 steps to keep them coming back

Is your website driving away customers

(This is also available as a podcast episode at OnlineCoffeeBreak.com)

How can you make sure your website is working to bring you customers---not push them away? During this busy shopping season users are flocking to the web to not only buy gifts, but to save time and money. They could be buying groceries, paying a bill, or reaching out to make sure they have the best deal on the services you—or your competitors—offer. No matter what type of website or app you have, you need to follow these three steps to make sure your site is working for you and not against you:

 

  1. Simplify your navigation
  2. Make sure customers can login easily
  3. Test, test & test!

 

  1. Simplify your navigation

Have you visited a site or used an app but got frustrated when you couldn’t find what you needed quickly? I know I have—and I’m not alone. Recently I was trying to watch an online class I had purchased. Once I logged in (and that wasn’t easy either), I found myself in a maze of clicking through confusing navigation until finally getting to where I needed—after struggling for several minutes.  I even reached out to the web site owners and discovered that this site was actually their newest version which they had launched just a few months ago. I found that quite surprising—but still frustrating. After all, what happens if you’re trying to get a prospect or customer to purchase something, or submit a request, but the user gives up when they can’t get there quickly enough? Obviously you don’t want to lose anyone, but how do you know your site is easy to navigate?

For years there’s been what’s called the “Two-click” rule, which, as it seems obvious, states that a user should be able to get where they’re going in only two clicks. Now technology has changed a lot and evolved since this term surfaced but the premise is still the same. A user should be able to look at a menu or icons on a screen and quickly be guided to where they need to go. Pages shouldn’t be buried—a logical flow from top to bottom and everywhere in between should be present…but that’s not easy.

So how to you simplify navigation? Well it could take some time but the effort’s worth it. One basic method is to make certain all of your pages or screens are grouped into categories, and if needed those categories are grouped into subcategories as well. An example I’ve seen and used is to get sticky notes or sheets of paper for each page, then group these together. Sometimes this works best when you get several team members to work together to identify each page and category. As you and your team work through this you’ll be forming the basic navigation for your site. It may not be two clicks (or taps) from the main page, but having logically organized categories and subcategories will help tremendously. Now  it may be better for your team to create these than have an individual or third party tell you what your categories should be. After all, you know your content best—or you should! Of course, getting feedback from other teams or individuals is a good idea, too. Either way, make sure your navigation makes sense and is easy to follow.

 

  1. Make sure customers can login easily

Now if your site has login functionality; that is, you allow users inside or outside your organization to login with a username and password, then you need to make sure your login is user-friendly. How do you do that? Well remember that users will at times forget their passwords. We’ve all done that. But we need to make sure resetting a password is easy and standard. These days you typically shouldn’t need to call a company to have a password reset. While lots of companies unfortunately still require a phone call, it can definitely turn away users. With current technology it’s quite simple to allow a user to have a reset link sent to the email they have on file with you. That’s easy and still relatively secure. And you can make it even more secure by enforcing what’s called “multi-factor” authentication. Basically this requires a user to verify an account via email and another option, such as phone, via text or an actual call. You’ve probably already experienced this numerous times with sites such as your bank or Amazon where this is standard practice. Once you attempt a login from a new computer you’re prompted to enter a code that’s sent to your mobile phone. This Multi-factor authentication is a great way to not only secure your users’ logins, but also improve the simplicity of creating an account or resetting a password.

Another relatively simple item to implement is to simply display the user’s name once they are logged in. While this seems obvious, it’s still overlooked. Just last week I experienced this as well when after logging into a site I had no idea if I was logged in or not—the site still displayed a link that said “Click here to login” even though I was already logged in. Confusing? Yes. Easy to fix? It should be.

So make certain you make it easy for users to not only create an account with you, but also to reset their password easily if needed and make it clear to them when they are logged in.

 

  1. Test, test & test!

Ok, your site is your virtual storefront. Whether you’re selling products or services, for many your site or app is the first impression a prospect has of you. And you don’t want it to be their last. You’ve probably put thousands of dollars into your site, but have you tested it enough?

While it may be obvious to test for functionality, you can’t always trust your development team, third party or an individual to test your site thoroughly. You need to look at it from a user’s perspective. Sometimes ourselves or our own team is just too close to our business to see it through fresh eyes. What may be glaringly obvious to a potential customer may be easily overlooked by a seasoned employee.

Now there are obviously testing firms that could do a fantastic job of fully evaluating your site, but while these can be pricey you could benefit from having a variety of individuals both inside and outside your team to review your site. Assign each a task, such as “create an account”,  “Buy a product” or “Submit a request”, then get their feedback on how easy or difficult it was. But don’t settle. If you have kinks that need to be worked out, then by all means fix them. It’s not work the risk of losing a potential customer just because you were in a hurry and launched functionality that wasn’t quite ready.

This applies to your current site as well. There’s nothing wrong with reevaluating where you are right now. Consider having various team members or colleagues take a look at your site and ask for honest feedback. Be gracious—while the truth may hurt a little, don’t let your ego get in the way or allow fears to hold you back—you want to make sure you create an experience that will turn prospects into customers and keep them coming back for more. That’s how you can turn your site or app into a money-maker instead of driving your customers away.

Now to recap, we discussed the three steps today that can help you create a site or app that keeps customers coming back. Again, these are:

 

  1. Simplify your navigation
  2. Make sure customers can login easily
  3. Test, test & test!

Your web presence is critical and can determine whether your business grows or declines. Make sure you put in your best effort to leave a good, lasting impression. Keep your customers happy by making it easy on them. Use technology that is intuitive and simple and you’ll end up with a site that has them coming back for more.

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