Your website must be usable and friendly while helping the visitor get what they want whether it is information, entertainment, or to solve a problem. This is the value proposition of your website—to immediately give the visitor what they want. Anything less and the visitor will just click away never to return again.

Start by writing good content for your site which is about giving your customers value. Be sure to format your content so it is easy to read. While content is king—-people don’t really read anymore—they scan pages. They scan for value or for what they want.

A new type of computer-aided research called “eye-tracking”, is challenging conventional wisdom about what makes a website user friendly or not. It turns out that clever design and artistic images don’t help the reader and often actually distract or turn off the reader. This may come as career limiting news for your design and artsy friends, but here is what eye tracking research tells us:

• Bullet points are a great way to list your ideas in a concise format. Lists communicate priority and catch the eye. Bullets and numerical lists draw the eye.
• Use single column formats with lots of white space. Multiple column formats are harder to read.
• Ornate fonts are harder to read. Stick with Times New Roman and Arial.
• Carefully word your headings and subheadings; tell the reader what is below. Don’t tease or mislead the reader.
• Leave the big words for the attorneys; use an informal tone and write as if you were communicating to a friend.
• Words trump images. Images are great, but people don’t always know what they mean. A stop sign without the word STOP is just a red octagon.
• Numerals are better than words; use 4 instead of four.
• People read the page in an “F” pattern. Basically they progressively lose interest as they scan the page. The lower right corner of the page is no man’s land—it literally does not get read.
• If your call to action is to “read more” or to “buy now”, be sure to put it toward the top of the page and in multiple locations. Never put it just in the lower right corner.

Always give the reader what they want right away.

John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2008 All rights reserved.

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