It’s easy to lose sight of the big picture with new social media gadgets and platforms released seemingly every week. A new application catches the eye of the influential media crowd, then gets discarded for another, and so on. In addition, social media management is an overwhelming task. Yet amongst the pageantry lies a purpose behind a blog or website. The blog or website is not the goal itself – it is a means to an end. The main goal is to have users act. Whether that entails signing up for an email list or purchasing a product, this focus must not be lost in the content and creation of a website. How does an owner set an environment conducive to user action?
1. Set the big idea – The purpose of your site must be clear and immediate. What benefits does the user receive for engaging with the website? Why should a user sign up for your email list? This is the foundation of all sites and must be the first step for any success. This step must be fully explored weeks or months before the website launches. The big idea also provides a road map for any future transactions or movement within the website.
2. Set clear, simple instructions – It’s difficult for a user to grasp all the nuances when first browsing your unfamiliar site. All actions required of a user must be simple – “Sign up for our email list” or “Click Here to Purchase” are both easily understood without getting in depth into a website. Take thought out of the user’s process.
3. Set clear, simple, urgent instructions – In addition to the point above, create a expiration date or timeline for an action. Creating an artificial deadline – “Buy now for a 20% discount” or “Sign up now for a free e-book” – creates the feeling that the user must act now or lose out on valuable information.
4. Don’t ask for too much information – a site wants to collect as much data as it can from users yet asking for too much data can turn potential members off. A name and an email should be enough when signing up for a newsletter. Although documenting information such as age and location can be important, you do not want to deflate an engaged user by having them fill too many empty boxes.
5. Give something away for free – A free download of something relevant to your site is an excellent way to persuade a user of your expertise. It literally costs the new user nothing while you show the value of your knowledge. A free e-book, for example, gives user’s time to evaluate your message while engaging their thought process at the same time. What better way to take two steps towards the user than a free product?
6. Sell on every page – whether it’s the home page, the about page, or a separate post, there should be options for users to act on every page. Many websites use a floating bar that stays near the top of the screen as the user scrolls down the page. The scroll bar can include pages for Twitter and Facebook, as well as an RSS subscription feed. The key idea here is that every page on your site must be focused and must have a point.
User action can be defined in several ways specific to the goals of your site. Whether that entails reading, clicking, or buying, there are several steps that websites can take to lay the groundwork for user participation and engagement.