Prevent your readers from leaving

More and more often, I find myself collaborating with web designers on effective ways to keep website visitors reading through the copy and preventing them from leaving. It’s a constant challenge.

On the one hand, we want to provide the visual appeal and variety of choices that make the site appealing. On the other, these features threaten to distract from our client’s message.

For starters, I know enough to keep the copy as brief and concise as possible. It certainly helps to keep the navigation clear and uncluttered, so the links themselves don’t distract.

Designers like David Salmassian and Melissa Mahoney have encouraged me to integrate subheads every few paragraphs to guide the eye. These also provide a “first glance” sense of the content, just like headlines in a newspaper.

And I like to suggest a next step or call-to-action with text or graphics at the conclusion of each page, perhaps recommending visits to related areas of the website. Short of that, an invitation to pick up the phone and call for more information is effective.

In her copyblogger post, Sherice Jacob goes a few steps further, suggesting in long sales copy that a call-to-action be placed in several spots for those already persuaded after just the opening paragraphs. Sherice also reminds us to break up the copy with photos, charts, bullets, and other embellishments.

That said, I cling to the conviction that the best way to engage website visitors and prevent them from leaving prematurely is to provide information that’s relevant, expresses the client’s brand, and offers unique solutions to very real needs.

Creating ways to support those objectives with great design continues to be an intriguing work in progress.

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Robert Hyndman

can be reached at his Laguna Beach studio, 949.497.3179, or by using the form on the Contact Me page.
May 2009
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