Mark Thomas Miller

Automated money machine

A few years ago, I started hearing people say, “I was about to buy from xxxxx, but their website looked shady.” Or “Wow, this website is a throwback! Do you think they’re still in business?” Or “I don’t trust that company… their website makes it look like a scam.” Or “I saw an ad for xxxxx in the newspaper, but I couldn’t find out how to buy it.”

Can you blame these customers?

Contrary to popular belief, design is not ethereal. It’s not about shades of blue and the size of your logo – it’s the science of connecting visitors with what they need to see to purchase from you.

Your site must behave like a brochure. You can allow your customers to explore, but you must make sure that they’re led down a path that spurs them to interact with your business.

There are a million places for a customer to get lost along the way. The more you can limit these places, the better your site will convert. This means that you need to make the site simple. Limit the customer’s choices.

Carve specific paths to lead customers from the home page, through what they need to see to make their purchasing decision, to them taking out their wallet. Within two or three clicks, visitors will know if they want to do business with you.

Still not convinced? Then let’s play a game. It’s a special occasion and you want to take your family to a fancy Italian restaurant. You pull out your phone and search “nice Italian restaurants near me” on Google. Five results come up:

  1. The Stracci Italian Restaurant. When the page finally loads, the website is using clipart. It looks like the business hasn’t had their website redesigned since the early 2000’s. Generally speaking, the website looks out of date and doesn’t appear to actually show any of the food you’ll be eating. You don’t want to disappoint your family with a lackluster restaurant, so you decide to look for a better one.Without knowing it, the owner just lost a potential $100 or more from not paying enough attention to how they’re presenting themselves to their visitors.
  2. The Cuneo Italian Restaurant. The site’s photography is lacking – it looks like the owner took the pictures with a point-and-click camera. The picture quality doesn’t make the food look appetizing; you wonder why the owner skimped on hiring a photographer – maybe it’s because they’re not confident enough in their own product to shell out that kind of cash? You decide to look for a better restaurant.The owner just lost a potential $100 or more from their lack of dedication to building a quality asset in their website.
  3. The Barzini Italian Restaurant. Remember, you’re using your phone to search. This website is confusing to navigate because it’s not designed for your smartphone. You finally find the link to the dinner menu. Upon clicking, something goes wrong with the site, and your browser crashes. You don’t want to make another attempt to navigate this glitchy site, so you decide to search for other restaurants.They just lost a potential $100 or more from not paying enough attention to making their site mobile-ready.
  4. The Tattaglia Italian Restaurant. The site has some great photography! However, their layout is very complicated: you’re immediately presented with several places to click. They want you to know about their upcoming events, their catering services, and their new newsletter. It’s overwhelming. When you finally look at the menu, there’s so much on the screen that it detracts from the delicious food you’re looking for. “This is a good contender. Maybe,” you think.
  5. The Corleone Italian Restaurant. This site loads fast, and the screen displays a picture of elegant wine glasses, candles, and heaps of delicious Italian food. You’re immediately greeted with the headline, “The best Italian food in the city for three years straight.” Underneath the headline is an option to view the menu. When you’re browsing the menu, a small bar rests at the bottom of the screen: “Reserve your seats in just 10 seconds!” it says. Their food already looks great – is reserving seats really that easy? You type your name into the box and select your estimated dining time, and you receive a nice confirmation message: “Thanks! We look forward to serving you!”

Notice that the site didn’t have to have lots of options, links, widgets, videos, volumes of text, and extra features. The only reasons you decided to “take out your wallet” for this restaurant were that:

The coolest thing is: the owners just gained money without even doing anything. And it’s because they made their website right.

This isn’t the first time the Corleone Italian Restaurant website design has paid off – people choose it all the time because its website immediately connects them with what they need: the guarantee of delicious, quality food service. The investment to do a website right – the design, the user flow, the copywriting, and the photography – has paid for itself many times over.

The owner’s attention to detail resulted in a streamlined process that funneled customers into his door without him having to do anything.

So when it comes to your website, are you guiding customers to interact with your business? Are you making the right impression on them within the first two seconds of them landing on the home page? And what if they land on a different page – do you assert your value for people that haven’t had any context?