Aug 04 2009

Call it What it Is

There’s so much to think about when you’re designing the website for your online business: creating the right look and feel, making your products look good, and writing copy that sets your business apart from the millions of other eCommerce sites out there. In an effort to stand out, it can be tempting to attach clever or “cutesy” names to every component of your site, but even the most creative words and phrases can confuse potential customers and cost you sales.

Cute, Complicated, or Confusing?

Think about it this way: people who choose to purchase goods and services online are motivated by a desire for ease and convenience. They’re looking for a quick, simple shopping experience that will let them get in, get what they need, and get out—with a minimum of time, effort, and hassle. It’s just common business sense to streamline the customer’s path to your products or services; if you throw up roadblocks along the way, browsers will head to a competing website that doesn’t require so much thought.

You already know that online shoppers hate to read. With advancing Internet technologies, modern web users expect to find and process information faster than ever before. Most customers won’t spend more than a minute or two on a single web page before moving on to something else. Despite these proven facts, a surprising number of sites persist in making cute and clever mistakes that cost them customers and money.

What Not to Do

  • Don’t hide the names of your most important pages behind other pages or information. For instance, if you have retail locations, don’t force customers to click on more than one link to find them. Vital information should be prominent on every page of the site and accessible with just one click.
  • It’s a shopping cart—not a “basket,” not a “bag,” and certainly not a “collection.” This isn’t the place to set yourself apart. There’s a reason so many sites use the “cart” term—it’s intuitive and easy to understand. On the same token, for the product page buttons, stick to the classic “Add to Cart.” And if you have a wish list, position both buttons in close proximity to prevent customers from mistaking the wish list for the cart.
  • What’s the quickest way to liquidate last season’s inventory? Make it easy as possible for customers to find reduced items by using an intuitive name for the category, like “Outlet” or “Sale.” Whatever you do, don’t give it an unconventional name like “Discount Den” or “Blue-Light Specials”—customers who are scanning for the industry-standard buzzwords may miss the collection altogether.
  • If you sell teddy bears, resist the urge to call your FAQ page “The Bear Necessities,” “We Bear It All,” or even “Want to Learn More?” Customers looking for answers to their questions will be looking for the “FAQ” link and are likely to miss any other wordings, however clever they might be.
  • Customer reviews have been proven as a highly effective way to boost sales and credibility—but don’t call them “raves” or “testimonials.” Someone in a hurry isn’t likely to click on an obscure link called “thoughts from the fans”.

Getting It Right: Tell It Like It Is

The best way to guarantee that customers will find what they’re looking for and leave happy is to make every part of your website as straightforward and easy to navigate as possible. Call your privacy statement “Privacy Policy,” not “For Your Protection”. Make sure each product has a visible “Add to Cart” button above the fold, even if it means placing it at both the top and bottom of each product page.

Other ideas to simplify a customers’ experience on your site:

  • Think carefully about who your customers are and how they shop. Your language, text length, and graphic presentation should be suited to your target demographic (use a consistent tone). If your target demographic wants clear and direct and you give them flowery or esoteric, you’re practically begging them to shop elsewhere.
  • Make sure the text on all navigation links is short, clear, and leaves no room for doubt as to what the customer will get when they click.
  • If you have a store location, make sure customers can find it easily and get there with just one click. Don’t bury it under “Contact Us,” for example.

When Creativity is Okay

There are exceptions to these rules, and times when clever or unique phrases can catch a customer’s eye and draw them in without causing confusion.

Banners and email subject lines can be a good place to use creative wording – provided you’re able to keep it simple and mature. The priority is to keep product details and links clear so that your customers will have an easy time finding—and buying—what they want.

Blue Acorn

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