Article courtesy of Build Your Wedding Business
It’s hard enough to get good traffic to your website. The last thing you want to do is lose a bride once she’s there. If you’re buying online advertising (which is smart!) you’ll want to maximize your investment and make sure you don’t give a bride any of these reasons to leave your website before making an inquiry.
Most brides will leave a web site when they have to wait for it to load. If they think something isn’t right, they just leave. The result: lost sales. Online marketing folks call it “bail out” and it’s hands down the number one reason brides will leave your web site. Your first page needs to load in less than 5 seconds, 8 seconds at the most. That’s right 5 to 8 seconds. Studies show bail out starts shortly thereafter. After 20 seconds, bail out rates can be as high as 80%. Slowness is usually a result of poor web site hosting, pages that are too large, pages with too many graphics or nested tables, complex programming, poorly written scripts, or maybe even FLASH.
When a bride or groom visits your site and requests a nonexistent page (URL) your server sends their browser an error page. This event is recorded as a “404 Not Found” error in your web server logs and is important information you should look for on a monthly basis. It means brides are NOT getting what they’re looking for. Encountering an error page is a frustrating experience for a web site visitor and studies show this is a leading reason why people leave web sites. The most common reasons for 404 errors include: programming error, incorrect or outdated link on one or more of your pages, incorrect or outdated link to your site from another site, search engine index contains an outdated page, outdated user bookmark to a page you deleted, or a bride/groom made an error when manually entering a URL.
Web Site Text That is Hard To Read
Background images, use of italics, animated graphics dancing across a bride’s computer monitor, use of multiple fonts, too much text and not enough “white space” all make it hard to read the information a bride is looking for. Dark colored text on light colored pages (non-background) will outperform any other combination 99% of the time. Also, DON’T SHOUT AT YOUR VISITORS BY WRITING IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS and keep text aligned to the top and to the left – that’s how people’s eyes are trained to read. Centered text in paragraphs is hard to read in most cases and should be avoided. Choose fonts that are easy to read like Arial, Verdana, Geneva, and Helvetica and keep them consistent in size and color throughout your site.
I still see too many framed web sites and I recommend most sites avoid using them. There is really no need to use them. In most cases they are more confusing to the brides and grooms who visit your site then they are worth. Frames can be useful on occasion, but often they create more problems then benefit. If you “have to” have that framed look, use a Cascading Style Sheet. Study after study shows web browsers have a more enjoyable experience at web sites without frames. If that’s not enough of a reason, most search engines have problems or ignore pages that use frames. If your webmaster insists on using frames, ask him/her WHY and then how they will compensate for these two significant problems that can result in lost sales.
When a bride can’t clearly figure out how to get from one page to another at your web site she’ll usually just use the one thing she can count on every time – her BACK button – and leave. Navigation links should allow moving from your home page to any other page on your web site within two clicks. The most usable navigation (i.e. bride friendly) uses both TEXT links (underlined blue text links) and graphical buttons (buttons!! not pictures). I just finished a book by a consultant who works for America Online. They pay him big $$$ every year to make sure AOL is easy to use and “user-friendly”. When it comes to navigation, at web sites that deliver the best results, he says it comes down to these five words, “Don’t make them think.”
Poor Overall Design
In the past 12 months the quality of most of the wedding sites I’ve visited has improved significantly. I attribute this to the fact that sharp business owners and managers know they can sell more wedding products and book more of their services with a top-notch web site. As a result, most understand that taking a casual approach to the design and marketing of their web sites is a mistake that costs them sales. If you’ve never built a web site before, if you don’t have a very good understanding of online marketing, web page design, programming, and layout, it’s unlikely a “home-grown” site will be very effective at selling more of your products or services. When brides find a poorly designed web site it doesn’t leave a very good impression. Not surprisingly, they usually just leave and go looking for something better.
Poorly Written Marketing Copy
The words that appear at your web site communicate a message and if your message is poorly written, grammatically incorrect, or difficult to follow, you significantly increase the chances of a bride leaving your web site with a less than favorable impression about your business. Even if she doesn’t leave, an ineffectively written and delivered message will reduce the results you get. Marketing copy makes a big difference.
Eye Candy Doesn’t Work
Forget about loud colors, blinking or scrolling text, fancy animated graphics, that’s NOT what brides are looking for. It isn’t a very good way to portray your business and in some cases it communicates the wrong message. In the worst case, it leaves a bad impression. Anything at your web site that distracts or challenges someone’s eyes is a potential problem and will most likely annoy a bride or groom who is trying to make a decision about using your products or services.
Get To The Point (FAST)
Give a bride or groom the information they came to your web site looking for and DO IT FAST. If you don’t they’re likely to become disinterested and then leave looking for better information somewhere else. You probably have less than 20 seconds to deliver enough information to keep a bride interested in staying at your web site. Keep your pages clean looking and well organized. Make it easy for a bride/groom to find information about WHO you are, WHAT you do, WHAT you’re going to do for them, WHAT special services you offer, WHAT makes you different and WHY they should do business with you. Everything else is fluff. Brides don’t buy fluff they want the real thing – so get to the point right away and give them what they came looking for.
Inadequate Contact Information
Brides love the Internet because it saves them time and makes finding local wedding services easier than ever before. Typically (or, hopefully) a bride will visit your web site, browse through several of your pages, and then want to know how to contact you. Besides an online inquiry form (not just an EMAIL link), you should have your company name, address, phone, fax and email address at the bottom of every page (or in another appropriately located position on each page). If this information isn’t easily available it sets up a situation where a bride can visit your site but then leave without taking the next natural step: making an inquiry and requesting more information.
Article courtesy of Build Your Wedding Business