Because your online customers are facing impossible deadlines and mounting interruptions during their day, they are looking to make the most of their time. They want the information quickly, with little effort, and the smallest need of brain power to get it. They want value – meaning not only the best bang for the buck, but rather the best bang for their time, money (because time is money) AND thought process.
How can you save your customer some precious time? Let them control their own path. Don’t steer the brand story, let them create their own non-linear experience. Remember “Choose Your Own Adventure” books? Every ending was different and allowed the reader to decide which path to take, yet all the stories were still related to the overall theme. Your Web site can do the same. Giving them control and access to what they need (information) in the way they want it (choices) helps build value and your brand.
The scenario I have used to help my students tackle the task of information architecture is to imagine that someone has five minutes to run into a drugstore and grab a tube of toothpaste. How would you organize a brick-and-mortar store full of 80,000 different products to help someone to find toothpaste? We’d make products easy for anyone to find and implement the same strategy when developing Web sites. Some people want to find and browse the toothpaste aisle (by category or suggestion) and others want to ask someone directly (by search). By allowing the user multiple ways to find something, we help them create their own brand (i.e. shopping, browsing, interfacing, etc.) experience.
Use these methods to help save them some of their valuable, irreplaceable time.
1. Simplify: Try simplifying the content on your Web site in a way that is easy to find by developing an intuitive system. Create content categories that make sense, design a visual system that has meaning, or organize the information to follow your customers’ search process.
2. Explain: Make it clear to them what you are selling. Give them the pertinent information they want-not too little and not to much. Boil it down to only what they absolutely need, and then humanize the verbiage and format it to be easily scanned. Product profiles may need multiple photos, descriptions, sizes, and how the product can be used. User reviews can be an added benefit as they help provide personal opinions about the use and durability of the product. Industrial product specs and SKU numbers may just confuse people.
3. Empower: Allow your customer multiple ways to access the information and find their way out. Cross-reference categories, make suggestions, offer breadcrumbs, allow customer lists and multiple ways to search.
Saving them time may also save you some time. When you simplify, explain and empower your Web site, you may also handle fewer product information inquiries, tech support calls, and abandoned shopping carts. Creating online value for you and your customers will help you build brand equity and customer loyalty for your business.