Designing and creating a website presents many different challenges and perhaps the most difficult and important is that of communication. Since this will basically be an extension of the business, product, service or sometimes even a person, the website needs to be the most positive experience possible for its visitors.
A solid web presence is more important than ever in today’s fast moving, technology based world. More people are turning to their web browsers when seeking a service or product rather than using older, more traditional methods like newspapers and telephone books.
When Luxury Becomes Necessity
CMO, a marketing subsidiary of Adobe, offers some “mind-blowing” statistics about the growing multi-billion dollar online shopping business. They estimate that online retail sales will rise to $370 billion by 2017, up from $231 billion in 2012.
Their statistics label the 25-34 year-old-group as “millennials” who are the leaders in smartphone usage. Although over 70% of those millennials admit to researching their purchases online before even going to the mall, they will still compare prices, read reviews and engage in social media while they are actually standing in a shopping center.
Even though today’s youth are more likely to have the newest technology, our 50+ senior shoppers still hold the title of being the largest percentage of online users with over two-thirds of them making online purchases.
So it is more important than ever that we communicate our message in this vital marketplace through an effective website that delivers its message. Communicating on any level regardless of age can be problematic at times, so it is important to learn to be a better communicator.
Overcoming Communication Obstacles
Since there are so many different ways of communicating with one another, each will have their own unique set of challenges. It is obvious from the statistics above and even common knowledge dictates that the vast majority of people are communicating and performing their business online.
With all of this is mind, how does verbal communication differ from its distant online cousin? With screen time replacing face time, how does this change our dialogue?
Let’s take a look at some communication challenges designers have overcome when creating a website:
1) METHODOLOGY – A good website uses a variety of methods to communicate their message, the most common being through text and images. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then sometimes that image is better used rather than a more lengthy description.
Font styles and colors are often left to the preference of the individual or how they relate to their product or service but this can be problematic too if it is not done incorrectly.
For example, if the client has a logo with a cursive and overly ornate font that is difficult to read, it might be acceptable within the logo but it will not fare well if used throughout the rest of the website. No matter how beautiful the script may be it won’t matter if no one can read it. Ultimately the visitor will not receive the message.
Icons are especially effective since they represent familiar things, such as the image of a house being linked to a home page. Continuity is the issue here since web icons are becoming such a familiar site nowadays.
But what if a construction company wanted to use an image of a bulldozer as all of its web icons? It might look like it belongs on their website but visitors might not know what it actually links to unless it is specifically labelled with something like “home” or “contact”.
Sometimes it is better to stick with what people know like the picture of an envelope for contact information. Web visitors are so fickle they are unlikely to look at a whole row of unfamiliar images and read a bunch of similarly labeled pictures.
Video has become increasingly popular as a quicker way to deliver an otherwise lengthy message. In the past this created space and bandwidth problems.
But with the continued success of such mega media storage sites as YouTube, the video need not take up valuable space on the website. Even better, the popularity of their website could get even more views to the page where it was created. Essentially that link could potentially bring new, unique visitors to the website.
2) CLARITY – Due to the short amount of time most visitors are willing to spend on a website, it is important that the message be delivered swiftly and clearly. For this reason it is important to keep the information brief but at the same time complete. This can be a challenge depending upon the material that needs to be conveyed.
A minimalistic approach is usually best. The content shouldn’t overshadow the design and vice versa. If a visitor cannot easily understand the purpose of the website and what it has to offer them, then they are likely to move on, and move on very quickly.
According to the Nielson Norman Group, users will often leave a site within just 10-20 seconds but pages with a clear description can hold their attention longer. Even worse, the first ten seconds of a site view are the most crucial according to their line graph.
This tiny fraction of a minute is not much time to grab attention, clearly convey a message and hopefully lead the user to the possible purchase of a product or service.
So the initial communication appearing on the website must be brief and crystal clear. There should be no doubt in the visitor’s mind whatsoever why they are there as you will see below.
3) CONTENT – The content must possess a wide array of items without being confusing or overbearing. In order to grab your visitor’s attention you must quickly convey what your site has to offer them and the purpose of the website itself.
This is usually performed in the very least within the title of the website itself and and then be shown briefly on the home page. A lengthy title is not only difficult to remember but also time-consuming for the user to enter into the browser or attempt to find through a search engine.
Again the trick here is to be brief but complete. Sometimes the developer must take a mountain of information and turn it into a more precise molehill of data that is both appealing and informative.
Within the content, providing links to other similar sites with common content can bring in more visitors especially when they are shared links.
If new and fresh content is paramount for your website, there are third party solutions including data content providers and software available at your disposal.
4) EFFECTIVENESS – The website developer must prioritize exactly what needs to be communicated to the visitors and keep it simple. Whatever is the most important thing about that website, it must be communicated in a way that makes it impossible to miss. Keeping relevancy in mind, if it doesn’t belong to the subject matter, then it needs to go.
Once the website construction is complete, website effectiveness surveys can be used if the results are not standing up to expectations. These surveys can be embedding into the website itself as provided by the designer or by using an outside vendor.
5) GOALS – The most common goal for websites is reiterated again here, clarity. The right message should be consistently delivered throughout the site. This is the reason so many designers are using web templates. Not only does the familiarity flow throughout the pages, so does the message.
Templates and commonly used icons breed familiarity. If the saying goes, familiarity breeds contempt, it is not the case in this instance. Quite the opposite is true since practically everyone knows that you click on the shopping cart in order to make your purchase, which again is most likely the goal of the website.
But there also needs to be revenue-related goals such as unique visitor counts, subscribers, bounce rates, search engine rankings, and other applicable statistics like number of downloads. The developer needs to be able to provide accessibility to these numbers for their clients. Thankfully there are many free and low-cost options for web tracking available according to specific needs.
6) RESULTS – Websites that fail to communicate their message clearly, quickly and completely are not likely to have much success. There will also be fewer inquiries to deal with when visitors find exactly what they want quickly and easily.
Whatever process the customer is experiencing on the website, such as purchasing a product, it should be as quick and painless as possible. The faster and more enjoyable their experience is, the more likely they are to return. Thus providing continued success for the website if customers are revisiting.
Due to the increase in smartphone and tablet usage, developers have also changed the overall appearance of web pages. This is an important lesson in staying in tune with new trends.
Another way to streamline the communication process is through the use of a newer technology called Unified Communications.
Just as websites must join together many different transactions and interactions into one space, Unified Communications (UC) performs something similar. Even experts in this field sometimes have difficulty explaining their UC technology to newcomers.
Think of it this way, much in the same way a website links things together, UC integrates a number of different communication services such as instant messaging, texting, and telephones. This growing technology may soon have a direct impact on website development and ease communication issues that are becoming more overwhelming with the increasing number of devices that are available.
Unified Communications is tackling the problem of communications that are becoming lost in this sea of sheer numbers. from websites to email, faxes and phone messages, texting and tweeting, voice messages and posting to social media sites, are we really receiving it all? How do we process all of these different forms of communication? Unified Communications may be able to answer those questions.
In the bigger ocean of technology, communication is becoming increasingly more difficult. Take it from George Bernard Shaw who said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
So when web developers deliver your concept using clear and comprehensive, albeit brief communication techniques, your customers will be receiving your message loud and clear.
Dave Landry Jr. is a professional writer and personal finance adviser living in Southern California. As an online business journalist, he often covers business communications, technology, and globalization. Check him out on Twitter today to find more of his writing!