Designing a Web site that Captures Consumers

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What makes the world's most addictive consumer Web sites — Adidas, Amazon, and Zappos — so addictive? The secret lies in the developers' ability to blend design and usability principles to create a uniquely engaging user experience. The payoff? Ease of use will compel consumers to return again and again.

Other consumer Web sites can be just as successful if they have a “wow factor,” are simple and easy-use-use, and follow consistent brand guidelines. Without these elements, consumers will flee.  

Having a “wow factor” is the most important element. Along with good design that brings personality and distinction to a brand, consumers want to be “dazzled.” Marketers and Web developers alike should ask themselves: is my brand's Web site captivating enough for a consumer to quickly find what they need and consistently come back for more? If the honest answer is “no,” then some adjustments should be made.

In addition, when it comes to Web sites, first impressions are lasting. Those offering confusion and chaos will turn visitors away indefinitely. Simplicity is key, and offering concise content and uncluttered design can be the difference between engaging visitors and losing them. Offending brands take note: if users have to navigate through various interfaces and links to find what they are looking for, your Web site will suffer the consequences in the form of high abandon rates and depressed conversions.

Next up is the issue of standard Web site conventions such as clear and consistent conceptual structure, screen layout and navigability that meet user expectations and reduce the learning curve. Note that a Web site that uses standard conventions doesn't have to equate to a boring Web site. Consumers have grown to expect certain basic functions for all sites they use. Every successful Web site has familiar features that consumers will regularly look for, such as a search feature and a “contact us” button.

Lastly, it's important for Web sites to have consistent brand guidelines that ensure a unified brand perception across all media, including online, mobile and direct mail. Marketers, creatives and developers must work together to bring the brand's style to the online property in a fresh and creative way that is consistent with the overall brand positioning. If the online property is not consistent with overall brand guidelines then the Web site will appear disjointed.

In all, it takes a unified view of design and development to create addictive and consumer-friendly Web sites, and this task should not be viewed lightly. Using a Web site to attract your best customers and keep them engaged can be one of the most effective direct marketing tactics around. What business looking to boost brand awareness wouldn't want to make that kind of direct impact?

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