We recently wrote about the importance of having a website that is functional, not just well designed. If you’ve done the work to ensure your customers can easily find answers to their questions — thus eliminating the tax on your customer service team — great job. However, you still have more work to do.
Reducing support costs is key, but ensuring your website is optimized for conversion is critical for driving your business. It doesn’t pay to invest time and money in a web redesign if your shiny new website can’t help you with concrete business objectives like winning new customers, retaining existing ones, and driving more revenue.
Focus on function
When it comes to your redesign, form should always follow function. According to Entrepreneur, websites that lack functionality have high bounce rates, which has a negative effect on both user experience and SEO. An Adobe report comes to a similar conclusion, noting that more than nearly three-quarters of those surveyed indicated that content “must display well on the device.” This is why discovery — and, in turn, site search — is arguably the most important aspect of any business’ website.
But here’s the thing: When it comes to search, bombarding people with a ton of content doesn’t equal a better experience. Quite the opposite, writes Jes Scholz in Search Engine Journal. Too much material results in the content paradox — i.e., the more interesting content choices people have, the harder it is to sift through and make a decision.
Even if it’s true that content-rich pages result in higher ranking for organic search, and thus potentially more optimization, if every page on your website is fat with content, even quality content, it becomes difficult for visitors to find what they’re looking for. And when people visit your site but can’t quickly and seamlessly find what they’re after when they search, it leaves them with a negative impression of your brand. That’s the last thing you want, since if they can’t find what they’re looking for after a couple of attempts, they’ll leave and likely never come back. In fact, nearly 70% of people say they won’t return to a site that provides a poor search experience.
Even worse, consumers who show up looking for something specific but leave in frustration are exactly the customers you don’t want to lose. In fact, they’re your most valuable customers — the ones most likely to convert — since the 15% of people who use site search account for 45% of e-commerce revenue.
Think inside the box
A well-designed search box is the first thing most people look for upon landing on a website. Done right, it enables them to easily find the information they want, when they want it, and in response to any query, no matter where or how it’s phrased. As Scholz puts it, “interacting with an optimized on-site search function is the digital equivalent of a passionate and helpful librarian.”
But not all librarians are created equal. Sholz counters that “search boxes typify a librarian who sits disinterestedly behind the desk, giving a curt response of ‘over there’ if you ask for information.” Scholz offers tips to combat that kind of digital experience, including a search box that features a user-friendly size and placement, predictive search in the form of drop-down menus presenting query suggestions, relevant answers, a call-to-action button, and AI-based natural language processing (NLP) that can decipher the off-the-cuff, “human” questions typically asked of digital assistants.
Another plus of a “passionate” search box is that it allows you to track exactly what your visitors are looking for and where they’re getting stuck. Such insights enable you to address those and other roadblocks by adding or updating information on your website, as well as across third-party sites (Yelp, Google My Business, etc.). Accurate, easily accessible information is the bedrock of a good customer experience and the first step in delivering a higher ROI.
Think of it this way: Smart companies already try to organize their websites in accordance with what they think a customer wants — (dropdowns, directories, and the like.) But a well placed search box and a high performing search engine deliver real-time insights so you can actually know what customers want.
Mobile or bust
Whether asked to Siri or via fast-typing thumbs, more searches are taking place on mobile devices than ever before. According to Statista, 56% of organic search traffic comes from mobile phones. So, if your website isn’t optimized for mobile phones and tablets, you’re missing out on a huge chunk of your audience — especially when you realize that two-thirds of mobile customers who seek out your website are looking to make a purchase.
A mobile-optimized experience allows users to view your website on their phones without having to squint, zoom, pinch, or scroll too much to find what they’re looking for. Any brand that ignores mobile does so at its own peril: Consumers are five times as likely to leave a website that isn’t mobile-friendly.
Be pretty and smart
If you have optimized your site for mobile and for organic search — as we wrote in a previous post on this topic — then you’ve boosted your chances of success in getting customers onto your site. But once they’ve arrived, you have to create an experience that keeps them there. Ensuring your website is optimized to deliver answers that drive conversion is mission critical.
Designing a visually appealing, even stunning, website is a laudable goal, but it shouldn’t be your overriding concern. So go ahead, design an eye-catching, award winning website — just make sure that beauty doesn’t come at the expense of meeting your customers’ real needs.