You’ve made the perfect website. It looks great, it does what you need it to, and everything is working. As a bonus, you’ve done the SEO research and made sure your site plays well with Google. A visitor stops by, takes one look around, and leaves. What went wrong? Well, getting users to your site is one thing, but getting them to stay can be extremely difficult. Luckily, a few subtle design changes can encourage your visitors to stick around.
1. The Z Pattern:
How often do you read every single word on a page? Probably never. Most users skim through a webpage for something important. Your website may look great, but if the layout demands users to skim several lines of text throughout multiple pages, they’ll quickly look elsewhere. What’s the solution? Well, you simply need to put the most important aspects of your website where users are already looking. When someone visits a website, their eyes tend to move in a “Z” pattern. They start at the top left of the page, move to the right, and then scan diagonally across the page from top right to bottom left before finally looking back to the right. For example, look at YouTube (and come back!) The YouTube logo is in the top left, and the user glances over the search bar as they look to the right. As they look diagonally across the page and move back to the right, they see all the videos on the page. This is a win-win for YouTube. If you don’t click on one of the featured videos, you’ll likely search for a video instead of clicking away.
2. The F Pattern:
You may not want your site to look like YouTube. That’s fine! For more text-based sites, you can turn to a different letter: F. Before I explain, please view any website that contains “Times”, “Post”, or “News.” News sites and blogs contain information that varies in importance. A story about an impending hurricane is probably more important than the score of a high school basketball game. As such, notice how these sites tend to place trending articles near the left of the page, from top to bottom. Near the right of the page, you might find stock prices, sports scores, or less vital articles. This allows users to view important information very quickly by simply scrolling down.
3. Respect the User’s Patience
This one is tough. There’s essentially one way to make money on a website without selling anything. Lots and lots of ads! But imagine the frustration of opening a page and being greeted by a giant banner for vitamin supplements. These ads usually cover the content of the page, leading the user to view another site. I know you want to make money. But you’ll have much more success by placing non-intrusive ads and developing return-users. Similarly, don’t ask for the user’s email as soon as they open the page. This desperation will just frustrate your visitors. If you’ve adhered to one of the layouts above, you can place ads and email requests to the right of the page or near the bottom. They’ll still be accessible to the user and they won’t annoy visitors into leaving the website.
4. Don’t Overwhelm Your Guests:
Picture this: you click on a website, and a video immediately begins playing. You mute it, but a video ad is playing to the side. You click the X on that, when a pop-up appears asking for your email. Frustrated, you decide to check another website. Don’t overwhelm your guests! Video ads and pop-ups are intrusive. The best websites only do something when the user scrolls, clicks, or presses a button.
5. Be Straightforward
What if you started reading an article, and the first sentence was in italics? A few sentences in, the text is bolded. You keep reading, and THE NEXT FEW SENTENCES ARE IN ALL CAPS. When you try to highlight several areas of your webpage, any emphasis loses its meaning. Step back and look at this entire paragraph. It looks horrible! The bold draws attention away from the header, the capitalization is jarring, and the italics are confusing. If your website is designed well, and your content is high-quality, your users will return. Begging for attention will push your visitors away.
6. Follow Conventions
The internet is fairly young, but conventions have already been established. This article doesn’t pick two letters at random and baselessly suggest them as layouts. Both layouts are backed by extensive research and are utilized by millions of successful websites. If the layout of your website is familiar, your users will probably know how to use it. As such, only try something new if you have a very good reason. With these considerations in mind, you’ll be fully capable of creating a successful, engaging website.