Recently, I wrote about how authors should think carefully when placing a link to their books on their blogs to increase book sales. A small but important point and applicable to anyone who has a website or blog. It is always worth remembering that visitors to webpages make very quick decisions about what they want to read and therefore what links they click. You only have a few seconds to impress.
So to take the thought a little further, I thought it would be worth looking at a webpage as a whole, and comparing your own blog or website to the ‘heat map’ graphics attached to this post.
Many blogs and websites I visit have the appearance of being added to over and over again without thought given to the layout. If you use Google’s Blogger for your blog, it is very easy to keep adding widget upon widget on the right hand side that then they end up extending to infinity down the page. Clearly very few of these will ever be seen by visitors, so is there any point in having them at all?
The best websites and blogs have one thing in common. Simplicity. However, a large proportion of blogs I visit are cluttered and confusing with bits and pieces clearly tacked on over time resulting in something akin to a knick-knack drawer. So is it time to do a stocktake of your blog or website and turn it into something appealing and easy to navigate?
The first step is to look at your home page. Does all the important information fit into the initial screen view? Or does it need a visitor to scroll down to find the important stuff? If you have an enormous image at the top hogging your header space, get rid of it pronto. Firstly because it takes an age to load and is a great way to lose visitors and secondly it is using valuable screen real estate.
You have to grab your visitor’s attention within 2 seconds, so what do you want them to see? A huge landscape image or the post you just spent hours writing? Get your content in the centre of the screen, or main body area as in the graphic above. Got something to sell, or a link you want your visitor to click? Then make sure it is in a hotspot. Again, on the initial screen view. The bottom of the initial screen view is called the ‘fold’, so think carefully about what resides below it.
What is clogging up your valuable real estate and how important is it? Make some decisions, then move all the secondary items to separate pages and include a navigation bar in the header. Never try to fit all your content on one page. Your visitors come to be informed, not participate in a treasure hunt. In Blogger or WordPress it is very easy to create new pages and the navigation needed.
Lastly, two tips. Slow loading sites are a great way to lose visitors. When you visit your own site, those huge images and widgets only load quickly because your browser has them in cache. For a first time visitor, they can take forever to load. Also consider how readable your site is. White text on a black background is very hard to read, impossible to print and looks very heavy and uninviting.
The key elements to a good site are simplicity, readability, fast loading and easy to navigate. How does your’s rate?