Today’s blog critique is for Medical Practice Trends, an information resource for doctors and medical practice administrators. This blog is a perfect example of how content, marketing and user interface need to come together to deliver an overall experience, as the team here have excellent expertise that is currently being let down by conflicting and competing design elements.
The first thing that strikes you when you arrive at the site is many different elements all competing for attention. While this kind of magazine style theme is popular, it is vital that you deliver the content within a well considered hierarchy.
Think about magazines or papers on a newsstand. There will be a major headline, and then more headlines in decresing importance. You will have one huge image that demands attention, usually with something inviting or instantly attractive, such as a celebrity face.
On the page in question though, each headline has equal priority because they are all of equal size, in similar sized boxes, and the most stand-out image is one of a zombie. If you strictly adhered to the “15 second rule” and had to decide what the site was about within 15 seconds, how accurate would your assessment be?
Our big lesson from this is an important one for all website owners and builders.
Understand and Organize Around Reader Missions
This site ranks pretty well for some useful keywords. There has been some effective work done in article marketing. There are funnels leading to lists. That part seems to be well in place. Now you need to take a step back and consider the following:
- Who do we want to attract? – Work on creating audience profiles for every type of visitor that you want to draw in.
- Where do we find those people? – For each profile determine the most likely place to find these people (as well as search engines).
- What are those people looking for? – Do keyword research for each profile and also work out the information needs of each reader.
- What will they want to see when they arrive? – Your visitor needs to be instantly reassured that they have arrived at the right place. Show them they have found what they are looking for without distraction.
- What can we offer them? – Once they have found what they were promised, now what? What is your offering for each type of profile? You need to cater your products and service to the needs and language of each profile, creating new landing pages if necessary. Connect those information needs and your offerings to create a crumb trail to lead visitors from your funnel to your most desired actions.
Right now when people arrive on the homepage (and 90% of the site links point to the homepage), the average user is going to be confused. If the content that drove them to the site is good then a percentage will overcome this and go hunting around, those not pre-sold on the site will go away because too many options are worse than too few. Overwhelm me with choices and I do not make a choice, I hit ‘back’.
We need to take your content and rearrange it to lead your visitor by the hand all the way to conversion (email or sale).
Design is as much about removing elements as adding. Here are some tweaks, items to remove, and tips for how to focus the experience and help the reader get more out of their visit, and do what you want them to do!
- Remove the date – It makes sense for a magazine, but not for a homepage that focuses the visitor on what is important (to them, or to you). You need to only keep elements that work towards driving the reader on their mission or towards your most desired action.
- Give more impact – The current header is almost shy, and the repetition of the domain is unnecessary. Create a real first impression, big and bold, with graphical elements that subconciously imply what the site is about.
- Promote the benefits – A good strapline but can be made much more compelling. Think of why the reader might want to dig deeper, what do they take away from your site? Rather than describe what the site or company is, tell the reader what they get in a way that makes them say “Yes! I need some of that!”
- Powered by .. – The Powered By sign is a little confusing, and works as a speed bump without any context. Better to have in the sidebar with a link to what that is?
- Confusing Navigation – Again, work towards a benefit and user centered approach. Are these navigation headings what the reader is looking for in the exact language they would use? Again it needs to be about the user mission, rather than a description of what you have.
- How new media savvy are your prospects? – Do your average target readers know what podcasts are? If not, try to simplify the language and the visual elements to concepts they immediately see the benefit in.
- Cartoons are fun, but … – I like cartoons, but the impact of this front and center on the homepage makes me worry a bit.
- Blog posts AND articles – Why the differentiation between blog posts and articles? Should there be a difference? Would it be less confusing to just have the headlines without labeling as one or the other? Many business people either do not know or do not care what a blog is, providing they get the information they need, so do not add descriptions and labels unless they really aid understanding and use.
- Good solid headlines – As mentioned earlier, the content is good, and the headlines seem to me to speak to your target market, so do not bury them down there, put them up top where they can be seen, big and bold.
- Push Your Opt-in – I imagine your most wanted response from the reader is to sign up to the email list, but every other design element is drawing the reader AWAY from noticing this. Even the colours are muted. Emphasize this box, use colour, depth, and attractive graphics. Pull the reader in rather than shyly hide away!
- Video – Again, the video is kind of hiding away, and on many monitors it will be below the area where you need to scroll to see it. With so many buttons and links above it, it is unlikely many people get to it.
- Reduce Categories – You need to reduce the number of categories down. Keep to around 5 – 7 categories, keep it simple.
- Lose the tweets – Unless your tweets are completely non-social (in which case you need to start being more social!) then you should not put your tweets on your homepage. Website visitors do not want to see your conversations, but to be a good Tweeter you need to be conversational. Therefore tweets on your site do not work.
- Put the about link up top – One of the things your visitor is going to want to see is an about box or page. Right now the cleanest link is in the footer. Put it up where it can be seen.
In Summary – Be User-Centric
It is a jargon phrase that gets over used but the intent is true. You need to focus on what the audience wants and needs and how you can achieve your aims by leading them to what they are after. You can work this out through your analytics, brainstorming, click tracking (such as Crazy Egg and Clicktale), through interviewing customers, and by observing people reading the site.
I would recommend a new homepage with only the following elements:
- Inviting header that really speaks to your benefits
- Introduction video
- Opt-in box
- About and Contact
This would answer the major questions of
- Where am I?
- Why should I care?
- What can I do?
Right now the user is likely to be confused. Make it easy for them to find your great stuff and they will reward you!