Attract More Visitors By Going Invisible

April 9, 2009
By Lisa Barone in Usability

So, here’s the thing, no one cares about your little Web site. I’m sure your mom does. Your mother is probably very, very proud. However, your customers are using you. They’re like that guy you dated right after college who just hung around because you had a job and a paycheck and he had a drinking habit. Your customers are just like that. Only when you do right by your customers, they pay you. Your boyfriend never did that. I hope.

As marketers we have this desire to be loud and to be heard. We want to tell everyone that we’re the best. Our Web designers want to qualify their paychecks by creating flashy sites to amaze and conquer. But your customer’s aren’t interested in any of that. They just want you to solve their problem. And the best way for you to do that and attract more visitors is to become invisible and give them what they want.

How do you become invisible?

Pay for invisible content. Yes, pay.

I know Loren thinks you can hire rock star writers by making them give you their first article for free or by outsourcing to India, but I completely disagree with him (I heart you, Loren.). I don’t think that you can. In an industry that hails content as being King, it’s always been somewhat crazy to me the lengths we’ll go NOT to pay for it or to get it for as cheap as we can. (I blame Google for that bad SEO habit.) Invest the money in hiring a good copywriter. I know I’m incredibly biased, but I think it’s one of the best investments you’ll make for your company.

Your copy is how people find out who you are, what you’re about, how you can help them, what your point of difference is and why they should care about any of that. A good copywriter, one that probably won’t write for free, can get all of that across without making it sound like you’re selling to someone and they can do it in a way that engages the customers, builds trusts and puts them on the conversion path. When it comes to content, you get what you pay for. If you want cheap filler content, then you can pay for cheap filler content. But it’s going to be awkward and cold and very, very visible.

Design for Invisibility

We won’t pay for content, but we’ll absolutely pay for in your face, not even pretending to be subtle site designs. Do you know what designers and criminals have in common? They have calling cards. You can tell everything they have ever done because it “looks” like them. They have a “thing” that they stick to. That’s probably great branding for your Web designer and the common criminal living next door, but your customers are not impressed. They’re really not impressed. They find your flashy site design so distracting that they’re not even willing to look past it. They’re confused. And they’re gone.

The best Web designers know that the design of your site should not distract from the content of your site. The goal of your site is to answer customers’ questions, to serve their needs and to get them on the right path. Or, as Geeks on Steroids says in the linked article, the purpose of Web site design is to help shine some light in a way that no one even notices the light. You know writing is good when you don’t even notice it. The same is true for design. It should be invisible.

Be Intuitive

The next two go along with making your site invisible, but I think they’re big enough issues on their own that they get their own sections. Deal with it.

This means a couple of things. First, most people have been searching the Web for awhile. That means they’ve been trained to look for things in certain places. They know that links should be blue, that the navigation should be on the left or up top, that the checkout cart is usually in the upper right hand corner, etc. Each time you stray from the norm in your attempt to be different and special and unicorn-like, you confuse them. I know that people should be able to adapt to new surroundings and evolve, but we can’t. We’re like trained monkeys. A user will not be impressed that you made them spend five minutes looking for how to get to their shopping cart. They’re going to be annoyed. And want to knock that shopping cart over. With your face.

They’re also not going to be amused when they can’t find the shopping cart because you’ve called it something else, like a goodie bag or a treasure chest or a product receptacle. It’s a shopping cart. Call it that. Call things what they are. It’s not an advanced SEO strategy. It’s common sense.

And if you tell a user that this link right here will take them to your home page, make sure that it does. No broken links. No 404s scaring them off the site. Google makes it very easy to spot your broken links with their crawl errors feature in Webmaster Tools. I suggest you pay attention. Even if you do think Google is evil. They’re also good at helping you make your site more invisible and more attractive to users.

Get the Social Buttons Off Every Page

Social media has pretty much ruined the Web, in my opinion. It’s lowered the standards for what is or is not content and it’s turned marketers into even worse people than they were before. It’s also cluttered up Web sites to all hell.

I know that you have a blog. I know that you’re social media savvy. You’re an Expert, even! That’s spectacular, truly. That does not mean your social media buttons should be located on every page of your site. That actually tells me that you don’t know how to use social media if you think EVERY piece of content you write or display on your site is worthy of being pushed, promoted and whored. I guarantee you it’s not. Save the big buttons for that big piece of content that is worth pushing. Otherwise your site just looks like no one wants to play with it when none of your users have touched your ginormous Digg/Reddit/Sphinn button in 12 posts.  And now instead of focusing on your content, I’m wondering what those buttons are, why they’re there and why no one seems to like you. I must be on a bad site.

Your customers don’t care about you. They’d rather you not exist. So don’t. Become invisible and highlight what they’re really looking for – the information and value located on your Web site. It may sound counter-intuitive that becoming invisible will help you attract more, but it works.

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