The value of a strong web presence seems to rise with each passing week. Marketers are cutting broadcast and print advertising budgets as customers increasingly turn to digital channels for information. Those customers are finding information in new ways -- through Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media channels, as well as through targeted online trade publications and communities. Once they initially connect with your products or services, however, it's inevitable: They're going to be paying a visit to your homepage to follow up.
How do you know if your homepage does everything it should to help your company build a strong ongoing relationship with your customers? More often than not, it's your customers who have the answer.
Let's take a look at seven ways you can boost the value of your homepage for your current and potential customers.
Listen to your customersDo you know what your customers think of your website? The single most important thing you can do to improve your homepage is to listen to your customers talk about it. They'll tell you their top-priority needs from your site and whether you are successfully communicating with them.
Talk to a cross section of people who are representative of the different types of customers with whom your company does business. Listen for needs that are shared across customer types, and listen for those needs that are distinct. Don't ask them what they think about your company in general -- instead ask whether your homepage meets their expectations. Ask whether they think that anything important is missing from the homepage.
At White Horse, we examine web traffic patterns, customer survey data, and customer call center logs before we talk to customers. All of these provide extremely valuable insights into customer needs. But nothing beats a good, structured conversation with the human beings you do business with to understand what kind of an impression your homepage is making.
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Thanks for the feedback! I'm certainly not suggesting that we simply ask customers what to do or where to head next. But there are established methodologies for listening to customers in the course of their use of a web site, or listening to customers as they talk about the way that a certain product or service intersects with their personal or job-related needs that provides the fodder for breakthrough innovations.As for Jakob Nielsen -- well, I couldn't agree with you more in some regards. If we all approached our website's like useit.com, it would be a bland Web world indeed. He's gathered too many important research baselines, however, to dismiss the import of usability as a key foundational element in any online digital presence. If it's beautiful but not useful, any product will quickly fall to the wayside.
I think it is wise to be careful of over-emphasizing customer feedback. They can be the tongue of the angler fish, without care.Customers are very myopic. They are more aware of where they are right now, than where they will be in the future. I agree that customer insight is important, for the here and now.However, as insight towards innovation, it only takes you so far. I think as a brand, you have to be able to lead in a meaningful way, as much as anything.And Jacob Neilson? Yikes. He would take all the branding and experience and richness out of just about any channel to the point of being sterile, if he had his way.As much as I think usability is important, the immersion in the experience, to the point of forgetting it is a construct, when properly engineered, fosters a cognitive bond between a customer and a brand that is the most powerful connection. And I think those that architect these rich, immersive multi-channel experiences with brands, while not ignoring usability, will experience the greatest success.There is just too much parody and more and more challengers at a faster and faster pace, to under-emphasize experience as the driving force of differentiation and facilitating choice.
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