In the busy e-commerce world, potential customers are whizzing about. Some know specifically what they are looking for, some have a pretty good idea but can be influenced somewhat, and then you have the few who are just out there cruising , looking for anything of interest. What we can discuss here are ways that we can better grab attention to potential buyers. Instead of “read-ability”, we will focus on “scan-ability” of a prospective site. Instead of making customers read lists and wordy content, we can make it easier if they just want to scan content quickly and go to get what they want.
- Use conventions.
If you have ever just glanced while you are driving and see a red octagonal-shaped sign, what is your first guess at what that is? Yes, a stop sign. It contains the distinctive shape and color that fits into almost any surrounding and lets you know exactly what it is. In this same way if you have ever seen many web stores, many basically follow the same conventions or a similar way of presenting goods. Things are located similarly on a page like navigation is usually in a banner across the top or down on the left side. These sites will use the metaphor of a shopping cart like Cart32 offers. On larger sites, there are icons for links to video, search bars, and social networking sharing options, all using conventions and icons.
- Create effective hierarchies.
A great way to make pages easy to grasp in a hurry is have visual cues to portray relationships between parts of the pages. There are 3 important ways of doing this.
- More important things can be bigger or bolder. Have the most important elements of a page appear larger, or set off by a distinctive color or font. Also nearer the top of a page helps.
- Grouping similar things that fit together. For instance you can group similar things under a heading or in the same visual style, or by putting them in a clearly defined area.
- Things can be “nested” visually to show what they a part of. A site section name (“Electric Tools”) would appear above the descriptions of the individual tools, reflecting the fact that all the other tools are part of the “electric tools” section.
Ideally on any well designed web page, potential customers probably think along the lines of a TV game show when it comes to the parts of a page they see. They can be thinking, “Here are– Things I can do on this site?” Or “What are–Links to today’s top stories!” or “What are– Products this company sells here?” Dividing the page into clearly defined areas is important because it allows customers to decide quickly to which areas of the page to focus on and which they can safely ignore.
As we scan a page, we’re looking for a variety of visual cues that identify things as clickable (or “tappable” on touch screens)-things like shape (buttons, tabs, etc.), location (in a menu bar, for instance, and formatting (color and underlining.)
- Don’t SHOUT. When everything on a page is clamoring for attention it can be too much: Exclamation points everywhere!!!! Lots of different typefaces and too many bright colors! Too many automated slideshows or animation. The truth is, everything can’t be that important and can be overwhelming to a customer.
- Disorganization. Some pages may look like a house that has been ransacked with things everywhere. Don’t let this happen to you. It’s a sure sign that the designer didn’t know the importance of a grid or how to align elements on a page.
- Clutter. We have all see those pages with too much…STUFF. The effect is like when your email inbox is too flooded with things like newsletters and ads. It’s hard to focus on the messages that are important to you.
Most of the time potential customers are simply scanning the text in search of something. The way to format text is important to make the pages more scan friendly. Here are some suggestions:
- Use plenty of headings. They tell the guests of the site what each section is about. If they want to read further, they will. If you are using more than one level of heading make them larger at the top for more important or by leaving more space between. Also keeping your paragraphs short keep them from being daunting and wordy.
- Use bulleted lists. Almost everything can be bulleted and probably should be.
- Highlight key terms. Most people as they scan a page are looking for key terms and phrases.
There are probably more, but these methods listed are a great help on your road to assisting your customers to find what they want and making your site more concise to everyone out there.