Your Web Site Sticky?
by: Brett Krkosska © 2001
Have you seen those gooey, slimy, wet looking blobs that you can throw against a pane of glass - or a computer screen - and it sticks?
A friend of mine stopped by recently with one of these silly little toys.
Of course, he couldn't resist demonstrating its molecular properties for me. I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised when, with a quick flick of the wrist, he hurled the blob with deadly accuracy right at my computer screen. It plastered my screen with a slurpy "ploop" sound. He looked at me with that gleeful, satisfied smirk and said, "Look, a sticky website."
While he was whooping with laughter and slapping me on the back - as if that would kick start my appreciation for his wit - I was thinking...
...what makes a site sticky? And is that gooey blob toxic?
These are good questions. Since gooey things are scary to talk about, let's jump right into the stickiness question.
1. One-to-One Relationships Are Created
When people stick around and browse your site you have the opportunity to develop individual relationships. Cultivating this relationship with visitors is crucial to your long term business success. Building a one-to-one relationship with your visitors enables you to gain their trust. People will only buy from you if they trust you.
2. Repeat Traffic / Increased Sales
A sticky site is a place people will visit again. By creating an atmosphere people like to revisit you increase their exposure to your product or service - hence more sales. Repeat traffic is the lifeblood of your business.
3. Performance Through Feedback
A sticky website is by design an interactive environment that allows you to obtain valuable feedback from people. By judiciously applying this feedback you are able to meet consumer needs.
The thrust of your site is to create an enjoyable and satisfying experience for your visitors. You do this from the moment they click in to the moment they click out. Here are a few pointers you can use in designing your site:
1. Appearance: Make It Attractive and Consistent
Appearance is the first thing visitors notice. The look of your site sets the tone for their visit. Right away, people will judge your site as professional or amateurish, as funny or serious, as warm or cold, and so on.
Keep your site consistent with a uniform appearance. Use the same backgrounds, colors, navigation menu, and site logo throughout your pages. Consistency helps your visitors remember who you are and gives your site an easily recognizable brand.
2. Make Your Pages Fast Loading
Your visitors are more likely to leave if they must wait more than a few seconds for your page to download. If you frustrate them with a long wait, they'll move on to someone else.
The best way to increase download time is to eliminate unnecessary graphics. Ask yourself if a particular graphic really contributes to your visitor's experience. If not, drop it.
If you use graphics, reduce their file size. A few well placed graphics can enhance the feel of your site - just be careful not to overdo it.
3. Immediately Tell Visitors What You Have To Offer
A sure way to turn visitors away is by not immediately telling them what you've got for them. They want to know now. They don't want to hunt for it or click out of your home page to find out. Unless you already have brand recognition, don't assume people know who you are and what you have for them.
4. Benefits Capture People's Attention
People are motivated by what your product or service can do for them. They want to know what they will gain. State the benefits of your product or service boldly and clearly at the top of pages.
Benefit oriented headlines and sub-headlines lead visitors into the body of your page. For instance, "Increase Your Site Traffic By 150% In Just 7 Days" gives your visitors a compelling reason to read on and learn more about your product.
In the first sentences following your headline paint a story with words that describes how your visitor will enjoy the benefit. People are motivated to buy when they can visualize themselves enjoying the benefit.
5. Consistently Deliver Value
If you promise the moon, you'd better make sure your rope is long enough to lasso it down. Building up your visitor's expectations without delivering value is a sure way to ruin your reputation. Provide your target audience with information they need and the value they deserve.
6. Use Common Sense Organization
Make it easy for people to navigate within your site. At all times your visitor should know where they are how they got there. All your pages should have a navigation menu linking to the main sections of your site. Provide a hierarchical "You Are Here" navigator to help visitors orient themselves.
7. Keep Your Site Fresh
Does your audience have a reason to return to your site? Update and rotate your content to keep 'em coming back. Keep your site fresh with new services, products and information that addresses the needs of your target audience. You can make things interesting by offering time sensitive discounts on your existing products, or invite people to participate in a contest or sweepstakes.
8. Make Your Site Interactive
People love to get their hands dirty. Provide them with ways to interact with your site to make their experience enjoyable. Add a poll, host a discussion board, or put up an audio version of your latest article.
Interactivity is now the standard rule for top quality sites. Utilize new technology with enhancements such as audio and video plugins, Java-based technologies, CGI and Perl scripting, Active Server Pages, and more. Take advantage of the latest in technology and you will dramatically add value to your site.
In conclusion, you must stay in touch with your target group's needs and format your site in interesting and useful ways. This is especially important as the fast-paced changes in technology continually reshape the manner in which we communicate with consumers. While it does take some work on your part, you will find it's a lot more effective than throwing gooey blobs at your computer.
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