Reward Visitors for Every ClickCommercial Web sites are less about computers, technology, databases and functionality than about something as old as human beings -- emotions. Sure, technology makes things possible, but great communications that speak to human emotions can make things happen.
The point is: Look for ways to reward your visitors for every action they take on your site, and you will be rewarded with their business and their loyalty.
Train your visitors that every action they take on your site will produce a pleasant, fulfilling experience. If they read, the writing itself will be rewarding. Your writing is snappy and fun to read. Don't forget, the Internet is a writer's medium. If your writing rewards visitors for reading, they'll continue to do so and come back for more.
When visitors jump to a new page, the graphics will be captivating. And the information they want will be there so they will be encouraged to go to the next page.
If they roll over a button, it will spin, move or produce a headline that entertains and further enlightens. Wherever they go and whatever they do, your site works hard not to bore them.
Don't forget that many of your visitors are aware of sounds as much as sights. More and more people have speakers and sound cards, so they're not just viewing your site -- they are listening to it.
Your site is not a "wall of sameness" from one end to another. In other words, there's a sense of surprise or discovery as each surface is revealed.
Most visitors are relatively passive and want your leadership on how to get the best from your site. Focus on the primary action you want a person to take, suggest a course of action and emphasize it.
Always provide a powerful, five-second, take-away message for every arrival experience on every page in your site, without requiring your visitor to scroll, read copy or otherwise squint.
Doing all of this requires focus, of course, which is always the hardest thing to achieve in any communication. It means choosing between many potential actions and messages you hope your visitor will consider. The temptation to present equally a host of options means nothing can dominate the screen. The visitor is caught like a deer in headlights, paralyzed by content saturation and numbing choices. The Internet expands everyone's access to greater choices and the tools to sort through those choices. However, people are busy; they didn't arrive at your site to work.
Make sure newer techniques with high production values such as Flash animation are used in the service of conveying an idea and not for just serving up gratuitous sensation.
Understand where the scroll line is for your audience, and borrow a lesson that newspaper editors learned a long time ago: What is visible "above the fold" is what sells newspapers. Likewise, what is visible above the scroll on your site sells your site and invites further involvement and inquiry. In addition, the slower a visitor's modem and bandwidth tolerance, the more important it is to reward the visitor for each click or action taken.
Make sure there's a "connect" between every button and every arrival. A banner that touts "Win a Hawaii vacation" but then takes the hapless surfer to the front page of a site with no details about how to win the trip does not make for a rewarding user experience. Make sure there's a communications handshake between what drives people to your site and what they experience when they arrive.
In the end, consumers' decisions about where to spend time on the Web is less about where they can find it and more about where they can have the best experience finding it. Reward customers for every action they take, and you will be light years ahead of your competition in the battle to acquire and keep loyal customers.