Leading your visitors by the hand

With any advertising, getting a response rate of more than a few percent is difficult. Even if your audience is perfectly on target, with no waste, well… it’s still an advert. And people have an amazing unconscious ability to ignore adverts.

When Google introduced its text-only AdWords adverts, the initial response was huge, because they didn’t look like adverts. Now everyone’s so familiar with them, you’re lucky to get a 1% clickthrough rate. OK, so that doesn’t matter, because you only pay per click, but it’s still frustrating to consider how much business is getting away.

On your own web pages, your content is what it’s all about. Almost 100% of relevant visitors will read the content. But imagine if you surrounded your copy with adverts. Would they get the same attention? No. They’d get the same tiny response as adverts get everywhere else on the web. The majority of visitors would read the content as if the adverts weren’t there, just as everyone does everywhere else on the web.

What I find amazing therefore is the number of business websites where the designer has been allowed to design some of the most important content on the page, including the vital call-to-action, to look just like an advert. Instead of the text finishing with a suggestion of what the reader should do next, with the last few words underlined as a link, the call-to-action gets transplanted away into a sidebar and dressed up to look like an advert. And most visitors then miss it completely.

If I want you to click on a link now, at the end of this article, why would I stick that link in a box off to the side somewhere? Would you notice it there, or even relate it to the article? But if I end the article with this link, will you click on it please?

Discussion

  1. AdvertLover

    Lol, I clicked the link, because I’m curious like that.

    But I do agree, I hardly ever look around the outside of the main content. Even on a blog site such as yours, I’m currently ignoring the right side of the screen…

  2. Richard Stone - technical PR consultant

    That’s interesting Chris and I totally agree. What are your thoughts on active content around the key content of a page. For instance, would you say that an introductory video as well as core written content is unnecessary? What about core content, a video and some key (boxed out) links to other parts of the site? Say a box out link to the subject’s Blog, news page and social media outlets?

  3. Chris Rand Post author

    My own thinking is that every page should tell a story. You lead people through the story, sequentially, and then get them to do the next thing. Give them as little chance as possible to get distracted. If a video or something like that is a key part of the narrative, put it in the right place. Boxed-out stuff (including a sidebar and menus) is for the site’s essential boilerplate material which is not related to the story.

    I think too much web design comes from magazine design, which is a very different thing. With a magazine spread, the aim is to do as much as possible to avoid unrelenting text. A web page is very different. If there’s too much text, shorten the page (an option magazine designers don’t have).

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