More and more the Internet is reflecting conditions and systems of the real world. This first, most famous, example of this is Google and their innovative search engine. If you’ve read “The Search”, written by John Battelle, an excellent book BTW, you know already how Google modeled their rankings on the academic publishing world. The importance of an academic work is reflected in how many times it is ‘cited’ by others as well as the prestige of where it is cited. If you think this sounds a lot like links, and linking, you’re correct.
Of course, this is a simplification, though the vital role of links cannot be denied. They play a central role in a site’s success and they will continue to do so for some time. Another factor that should be recognized is that the academic world isn’t vulnerable to real world equivalents of spammers, link farms & other underhanded techniques. Although if it was possible, I wouldn’t put it past some of the Professors I had.
Returning to our subject, the Real World model is a concept that we all need to keep in mind when working on a website, especially business sites. This idea has broad implications – and applications, which we can’t cover in this one post. We couldn’t completely cover it even in a series of posts. But we can start.
One of the things that surprises me is that many businesses still use a Splash Page. Basically that means that the index or home page is nothing but a title and a graphic or something along those lines. No real content, just something to ‘Get Your Attention’. That might work if the Internet was like a city, where a sign in a store window or an over-the-top entrance way could pull you in as you just happened to walk by. But that’s not how it is.
When a person arrives at your web site, they want to be already inside the store. Depending on how they found your site, they want to either be looking at exactly what they’re looking for or for specific information on what you offer and what you’re about. In other words, your visitor should either be in the front of the store looking at the layout map or they should be standing at the shelf where the product or service they want is kept.
Don’t put anything between the visitor and the end result you want. Slowing down the path to a purchase, or your equivalent, is shooting yourself in the foot. That doesn’t mean reducing your site to 2 pages – the home page and the Buy Now page. It means taking a good look at how you might be putting barriers in front of your customer. And how you can get rid of them.
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