Make Your Website Perform Like Usain Bolt (or risk watching your site visitors bolt instead)

By Brad Powell, SVP, Director of Digital

(Photo: Getty Images/Quinn Rooney)

If we learned anything from the Olympics, it’s that people love speed. Maybe it’s because we live in the age of Twitter and short attention spans, but today speed is, ahem, the gold standard. Your website design is no exception.

Usain Bolt ran the 100-meter dash in 9.81 seconds and then the 200-meter dash in 19.78 seconds. Somewhere in the middle is the abbreviated amount of time you have to engage a user on your website (or risk losing them). Clearly, this makes landing page optimization absolutely critical. Your home page is likely the most visited landing page on your site and, therefore, the most important place to focus on optimization. Here are a few quick tips to get your point across in under 20 seconds. Take your mark …

  1. Remove Clutter

It’s never been truer; less is more. Surely you are good at what you do and have a lot of great things to say, but avoid overwhelming the user with excessive text or images. Tease them with small tastes instead.

  1. Have What They’re Looking For

If the users don’t immediately see something that clicks with them, they will simply click on to the next site instead. Make sure your content is what your visitors want to see – not just what you want to tell them.

  1. Present A Clear Call to Action

If your visitors don’t have clear direction about where to go or what to do next, they will simply choose to leave rather than be confused. Provide clear, concise next steps.

Catch ‘em when they’re sprinting. But then slow the pace.

So, you quickly grabbed their attention. But now, how do you morph your site users from Usain Bolt into Eliud Kipchoge? (Eliud won the Men’s marathon at the 2016 Olympics in 2:08:44. But you knew that, right?)

After you’ve hooked the user within the first 20 seconds, it’s up to you to convince them to stay for the long run. The best way to do that is to design your site around your users instead of around your company’s goals. By making every part of your site add value to the user experience, visitors will slow down and linger longer. And when they do, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to tell your complete story.

  1. Get Intimate With Your Users

We can’t emphasize this enough. Do everything you can to better understand what makes your customers tick. Know who they are and why they are on your site. Then build user personas and challenge everything against them. This will help you craft relevant content that speaks to – and motivates – your users.

  1. Make The Site Useful

Now that you know your users, give them information and tools they can use and will find helpful. This could be product and pricing information or even account functionality. Think about their journey and how they will want to progress through information. Then, determine what is most important at each point and make it prominent and easy to get to.

  1. Test, Test, Test

If you’re not tracking site analytics, how can you know what to improve?  Check your theories with A/B testing to see what works and what doesn’t. Then continuously improve the experience. This will keep your content fresh and the users sprinting back for more.

Now that the Olympics are over, why not use even a fraction of the time you devoted to watching hours of coverage every night to make these adjustments to your site? In no time flat, your website will be performing like a gold medalist and your customers will be singing your praises like the national anthem.

Brad Powell is SVP, Director of Digital, for Gatesman, one of the Northeast’s premier marketing communications agencies. He provides oversight and strategic counsel, technology expertise, and creative solutions to clients such as StarKist, FedEx Ground, UPMC, Duquesne Light Company and CONSOL Energy.