Thomas Hoffman is the founder of Fugu Furniture and a good friend from our triathalon days. We recently sat down to talk about how he can optimize his website to best interest visitors. Here’s how the home page looked at the time we talked.
Above the fold
A key design principle is to think about what is above the fold. That means what appears on a user’s screen without any additional scrolling. Where exactly the fold is depends on the size of the user’s monitor, screen resolution, and the size of the window the user is using. Where I put the red line on the screenshots is where the fold appears on my 13″ Macbook Air.
You have 15 seconds
When a first time visitor arrives on your site, it has 15 seconds to make an elevator pitch. Wikipedia: “An elevator pitch, elevator speech, or elevator statement is a short summary used to quickly and simply define a product, service, or organization and its value proposition.” 15 seconds is arbitrary but the point is visitors don’t linger on your site. And while design is nice, most visitors come for your content.
Looking at Tom’s site – what can we figure out about Fugu in fifteen seconds? There are rotating images of Fugu furniture on location, a menu bar, social media links, and a small bit of text that is cut off. If visitors read the top line of text that’ll learn that Fugu is in the premium inflatable furniture business. This is a good start but we can make the home page more compelling. Right now most of the page above the fold is taken up by one massive rotating picture. I think it is a good idea to give visitors a mix of different media types right on the home page that lets them know what they are looking at and what they can do next.
For example, see the ColSpace page. Here we have a short, explanatory text, an intro video, and three easily identifiable links that take people to see more videos, pictures or a comparative checklist. The “contact us” button is also clearly visible if the primary goal of the visitor is to get in touch with a human.
What happens after a visitor scans the home page?
After a visitor looks at the home page, they need something to do. If they scroll down on the Fugu site they’ll see two main links – products and videos. By taking a quick look at the Google Analytics visitor flow for the site during 2012, we can see that of 13.5k visitors, nearly 40% left the website entirely after looking at the home page and the average time on site was one minute.
When I asked what actions Thomas wanted users to do, he said he would like them to look at the product or watch the intro video. Of the 60% of visitors that clicked through to a 2nd page on the site, about half went to a product page. And less that 5% of all Fugu visitors watched a video (and I think intro videos are the best way to make an elevator pitch).
How do you want to optimize your website?
The first step in optimizing your website is deciding what you want visitors to do. The goal for the Fugu website is to have visitors click on the Contact Form in the menu bar, which takes them to a contact page.
By setting the Contact Form URL as a goal in Google Analytics, we can visualize how visitors got to the page.
And here’s what I consider the best Goals, Funnels and Analytics explanation I’ve ever seen (90 minutes, but broken into manageable chunks).
By looking at how people get to a page (and an action), we can decide how valuable certain steps are before they take that action. For example, visitors who view the intro video to Fugu are much more likely to carry on to other parts of the site and eventually fill out the contact form. From this information we might conclude that increasing the number of visitors who watch videos is a good way to increase our eventual goal of having people contact Fugu by clicking on the Contact form.
***More generally, the process of deciding the relative value of intermediary actions to an end goal, in marketing, is called attribution. Here’s a great intro to attribution from Trevor Paulsen at Adobe, using the simple to understand metaphor of ultimate frisbee.
Time to optimize based on marketing goals
Based on Analytics data and familiarity with his own marketing cycle, Thomas decided to reconfigure the website to make sure visitors knew exactly what to do when they arrived: watch the intro video!
The banner image has been shrunk and there are now three buttons available, two of which point visitors to videos. The third button features products, particularly important for return visitors who might not be interested in the videos anymore. The full text is now available above the fold, even on my small laptop monitor.
A descriptive tagline
I think one more step might improve the page a bit further and that is to have a descriptive tagline, like “Web based advertising planning” for ColSpace, “The original wearable bike lock” for Hiplok or “Discover the comparative advantages of IBM solutions” for SmarterQuestions.org. For Fugu it might be “Premium inflatable furniture”. The idea is to give visitors a good idea of what information they are about to look at based on a very quick read.
What happens now
Now that Thomas has a new home page up, the next step will be to see if things improve according to his goals. The bottom line is if more visitors go to the Contact page and submit a form. The intermediary step is to see if more website visitors watch his video. He can use Google Analytics to answer both these questions by using the “compare dates” function to see the difference in web traffic before and after the change in layout of the home page.