An hour ago I had my website World Heritage Links critiqued by a group of professional web designers at the “WordPress and Beer” meetup. And my grade was a B for effort and a D- for results. Everyone admitted my site was much better than a couple of weeks ago when they first saw it, but it was still poor. The reasons are obvious enough, but the worst was that when a person first sees the page it isn’t obvious what benefit they can get from staying there, or from clicking on anything, or from scrolling down the page to find out what the site is about. If new viewers can’t find something to grab their interest in a couple of seconds they will click away. My site totally failed that criterion.
My site as it presently exists requires reading a paragraph and scrolling down a screen to get even a basic understanding of what it has to offer. It then requires the viewers to click on one of the links, which immediately takes them off my site and on to their new, probably more interesting discovery. Having the linked site open in a new window is helpful, but my page design requires the person to intentionally click on my site to come back, and why would they? Therefore, there would be a very high percentage loss of viewers from this simple flaw, and my whole site is set up this way – to send people away. Furthermore, everyone was of the opinion that why wouldn’t someone interested in one of these sites simply go to YouTube if they wanted to see some videos of those places, and once there simply click on the additional offerings YouTube or Flickr has to offer – once again an invitation never to return to my site.
So far they have exposed several fatal flaws to the World Heritage Links site ever being successful, at least as it is presently being presented. My problem is like trying to make a telephone directory page interesting; once you find what you want, you close the book and move on, and no one even looks at the printed directory list anymore. There were some suggestions, such as breaking it down into categories, such as continents, or sites close to the seashore, or some other alternate attractions, but that doesn’t solve the fundamental problem of sending people away. It was suggested I make it look more like eBay where there were cascading window-shade roll downs which would lead people progressively through various options until they found something they liked. But, that still doesn’t address the problem of people going away from the present setting.
I see this as a process of evolution of an idea. Well, not quite evolution because that method is founded upon something working and then being improved through modifications. This site is fundamentally flawed, at least in its present embodiment, and so it needs to be fundamentally redesigned. It needs to lead people to stay on the site or somehow be brought back to the site instantly, and while there to be sold something of value. At present it sends visitors away and there is no way to make money from people who have departed, and no way to sell them anything while they are there.
If the site doesn’t offer them something they are willing to pay money for, it isn’t likely to offer them anything they want. Things that people want from other people require them to give something back in return. And, if those people are strangers, the medium of exchange is money.
The problem is that anyone who comes to the site probably won’t even bother to click on a link, and if they do, they will leave the site instantly without buying anything.
A website must attract people and then compel them to stay and to buy something.