As web consumers become more sophisticated, they're demanding more and tolerating less from the websites they frequent. A national survey of consumer pet peeves about commercial websites commissioned by Chicago-based web hosting company Hostway found that more than 70 percent of consumers say they are unlikely to purchase from, or even return to, a site after encountering pop-up ads, "register for more information" log-on pages that block access to promised content, or extra software installation requirements for viewing the site. Other peeves: dead links, confusing navigation, slow-loading pages, ineffective site-search tools, moving text and poor appearance.
Andre Stecki, CEO and co-founder of GoApply.comin Aliso Viejo, California, has taken pains to make his website less annoying. GoApply.comis an online mortgage and financial services company that anticipates $35 million in revenue by the end of the year.
In the past, customers who wanted to apply for a loan had to fill out a lengthy, complicated application. "We did a lot of testing on what the sweet spot is in terms of number of fields, and we decided that 16 to 18 is the right number of questions," says Stecki, 35. Thanks to a shorter questionnaire, more consumers now complete their applications.
Today, many companies are improving their websites, reports Tiffany Shlain, founder of The Webby Awardsin San Francisco. "Before, the goal was just to get people onto the site," says Shlain. "Now the goal is to offer them information, links and services that can help them." Shlain offers the following tips for creating a winning website:
- 1. Avoid extraneous bells and whistles that slow users down.
- 2. Keep your navigation bar consistent and prominent on every page. Use guides to show users both where they are and how they can go back.
- 3. Put a clear link from the home page that leads to your company's contact information. Include your phone number, fax, postal mailing address and e-mail.
- 4. Highlight company or industry news on your home page. Review your site often to make sure everything is current and the links are still functional.