The best way to make your web site welcoming to visitors isn’t a big “Welcome” mat on the home page. The trick is to put yourself in your visitors’ shoes and make your site easy and enjoyable to use. Simplicity, ease of navigation and consistency are the key words here.
I recently visited the Herald Scotland site (The Herald and Sunday Herald newspapers) because I wanted to contact the paper. Nowhere on the home page could I find the “Contact Us” link. I’m interested in web usability, and fairly persistent, so I clicked away until I found that contact form. You access it through three different tabs/links, none of which says “Contact Us”. They are:
More casual users would have given up and left.
Why does Herald Scotland make it so difficult for visitors to get in touch? Why are they so unwelcoming? User interaction is surely a key asset to newspapers in these straitened times.
Web users usually want to carry out a task (book a flight, buy a book), find information or, we hope, read interesting content. They don’t want to waste time looking for standard features that web designers have decided to hide away under misleading headings.
It ain’t rocket science.
Make your site easy to use. Label your pages clearly. Put things where users expect to find them, with the names they expect (Contact Us, FAQ, About Us). Follow standard practice – don’t be so clever and innovative that nobody can find their way around the site. Be consistent. If the main menu is on the left-hand side on the home page, make sure it stays there on every other page of the site. Take the needs of less abled users into account. And take a step back from the site and try to view it through a user’s eyes (better still, bring in an outsider and ask them to carry out key tasks. Watch them and take note of how easy/difficult they find those tasks).
Keep it simple, not fancy – that’s how to make your web site welcoming.
Photo courtesy of LexnGer / Alexa Clark
By Marian Dougan