When the Internet was still in its infancy, independent agents needed little more than an online address in order to have a website and what’s more, it was more novelty than necessity. Times have changed, however, and while most agents recognize the importance of a website, many have not kept pace with how consumers use them and how to make them stand out.
Early websites (the first was created in 1991) consisted of mostly text and were simple in structure. Of course they had to be given those slow early Internet connections. Remember the dial-up modem? At the same time, though, the simple design created a better user experience. Today, the Internet can accommodate far more complex and content-rich websites. Bigger is not always better and user experience is more important than ever.
In a survey conducted by Carat, a digital agency, 41 percent of respondents feel overwhelmed by the wealth of choices on the Web and make it harder to make purchase decisions. In addition, 55 percent of people online use only two or three trusted sites for their content discovery and purchasing.
For many of us, when we start looking for an agent, we don’t set aside time at a desktop computer. We’re more likely to ask our friends and neighbors for recommendations and browse the Web while commuting (not when we’re driving!) or when watching TV. We scan websites and only look for the information we need — and we want it quickly.
That’s why usability is so critical. Content is still king, however, content must be packaged so that it can be delivered in the most efficient and effective way. That means intuitively placed information, plenty of visuals, and easy navigation.
So how should an agency take steps to make its website more distinctive and useful?
Throw out the notion that a website is nothing more than an informational brochure with a listing of services and a pledge to provide the “best service.” Think of how the website will be used, not read.
Does the website look like every other agency in town? If so, what simple changes can be made short of a complete rebuild to make it stand out?
Understand how the agency’s website is being used now. A first-time visitor will take only 10 seconds to develop a first impression and decide whether or not to explore the site further. How long does a visitor spend on the site and what do they look at? How does a visitor’s behavior change on the site? After the first 10 seconds, what clicks, scrolls, and mouse movements take place and over what period of time? For best results, make sure the website is connected to Google Analytics.
What do clients want from a website? What information or help do they want online without having to take the time to send an email or place a phone call?
What devices are visitors using? Are those experiences optimized on those particular devices? What devices do clients and prospects use?
The fact is, many agency websites fall short in significant ways and unfortunately, the margin of error in today’s connected marketplace is slim.