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What Are You Assuming Your Website Visitors Already Know

Never assume -- as Felix from the 1960's The Odd Couple television series said, "Never ASSUME, because when you ASSUME, you make an ASS of U and ME." This applies to both intranet's and websites used to communicate with customers. When you think you know what your website visitors want, you'll always be wrong, build your website to segment visitors.

We make too many assumptions when we meet new people, and those assumptions hurt prospective business relationships and weaken existing ones. Consider this, the same website often serves several segments of customer, prospects, employees, news media, and possibly even vendors. For your B2B website to talk to each of these individuals one-to-one (after all, it's just your visitor and your website at the point of interaction) you need to segment your website navigation accordingly.

Here are some strategies to limit assumptions and improve visitor relationships:

  1. Each web page should have a main objective based on the wants of a visiting segment, two elements that further qualify the individual, and a place for a visitor to go for help. We too often assume we know exactly what our website visitors want, but more often than not we confuse them with every visit. Too many options is as bad as too few, or event the wrong options.
  2. Never assume your visit knows anything about your topic, how to navigate your site, or even what your company does. Seek to help them reach an understanding in a way that segments visitors and guides them to the part of a site they would find of greatest value.
  3. Start first by thinking of your website as a traditional organization chart (the ones with one box on the top, with three delegates under each, three deep.) The majority of your traffic will come in on your home page, that box at the top. Each link represents another series of pages under the home page.
  4. Advance to seeing your website as a large sphere of concentric layers. While this is a simplistic description of a website, it is important to know that every action a visitor takes on your website should qualify them for something. You should be able to watch the path a visitor traverses down your website and know exactly how they are segmented.
  5. Define each visitors desired objective, use it to identify them as individuals. Is the visitor a customer interested in a certain product? Maybe a prospective employee looking for a new career? The navigational behavior of a visitor should even point out competitors who frequently monitor your news and products.
  6. The secret is to make desired content no more than three clicks away from any point within that segment of information. This may sound complex, but move from the flat model of a organizational chart to a sphere of connected cubes. This three-dimensional model more accurately represents true web navigation.
  7. Your external pages (those on the outermost part of your sphere) are landing pages, as a visitor moves toward inner layers of your site, they get more specific information. Three clicks from anything keeps their attention and focuses your website around specific segments of visitors.

Stay tuned, I'll cover more on this topic later as I put together more materials for "Developing Business-to-Business Websites for Cultivating Relationships and Sales" and it's accompanying book.

/ b2b-websites | interaction-points /

By Justin Hitt at July 23, 2003 3:16 AM  Subscribe in a reader

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