Websites and Supermarkets: How We Hunt for What We Want

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Imagine that you enter an unfamiliar supermarket or hardware store. Typically you’re not going in these types of stores to browse around for fun: you know what you want before you walk in the door. How do you tackle the task of finding the specific item you want?

For most people, they’ll do one of two things: they’ll grab the first employee they see and ask, “Where do I find the hot dog rolls?” or they’ll walk past the end of each aisle, glancing at the aisle signs that tell them the aisle contents looking for a fairly good match, then walk down that aisle to see if their item is in that aisle.

Visitors to your website have the same “hunting” mentality. They come to your website looking for a specific answer to a question they have in their head. They scan your home page, looking for a clue about what’s in each section of your website, and grab the first “closest” link that seems to match their question. Or, they’ll go right to your Site Map or Search Box to get some help. Only when they reach the page that really answer their question will they begin to read in any great depth.

If you keep in mind that people are in hunting mode (not reading mode) when they arrive at your website, you’ll save yourself and your visitors a lot of hassle. Here are some tips:

  1. List all the questions that a typical visitor might have when they arrive at your site. What are they looking for when they come to your site? Create your home page to lead them to these answers.
  2. Create navigation and in-paragraph hyper links that include the text that visitors are looking for. Use text labels that are intuitive and the type of phrasing a typical visitor might use.
  3. Keep paragraph text to a minimum until they reach a page that will convert them from “hunter” mode to “information gatherer” mode.
  4. Make it easy for them to get back to the home page. If their initial “hunt” doesn’t unearth the answers they seek, they may be willing to try again, but only if you make it easy for them.

Planning your website is one of the most important things you can do. If your site is difficult to use or doesn’t reflect the real way that visitors use websites, your revenues will suffer. If you’re not getting the results you need from your website, maybe now is the time to consider a website re-design.

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Category: Website Planning
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