Using good communication to make your website easy to navigate, accessible and inclusive translates into customers returning and engaging with each hit.

All diffrent sorts of people can all gather on a good website
Good communication on a website creates a level playing field that includes all different types of users equally. Photo by Karine Zenda on Unsplash

We probably all assume that every company, large or small, wants each new website visitor to find what they came looking for. If so, what are the keys to easy navigation on a website?

Inaccessible website will lose your company revenue, as this website illustrates. Here are reasons why to ensure your website has a clear roadmap so customers can get what they came for.

Harnessing your Advertising Spend

Once you have paid for social media advertising – especially per click – it is a waste for new customers to get stuck and frustrated with your website. It’s unnecessary and disrespectful of their time. If they need to call for help, your website has failed. If they leave without making a purchase, your website has failed.

You need honest feedback. If you cannot find a way to see the point of view from the other side of the counter, then user feedback is extremely useful for ideas to make your website more easy to navigate.

A Quick Start Guide

Navigating a new website is much like following a map in an unfamiliar town – photo by Kevin Grieve on Unsplash

Firstly, a well-flagged Quick Start Guide can walk first time visitors through your website. This shows respect for their time and inclusiveness. So many websites seem to judge people who do conform exactly to their own corporate way of thinking.

We cannot assume website visitors have any prior information. They are likely to have come through a search engine and be looking for something specific. With all the websites out there, if a shopper comes to your website, finds what they are looking for, successfully checks out and then receives their item, they will be so happy.

Delighted new customers are your biggest ambassadors.

So many websites are terrible for first time visitors. The website creators assume so much. They create the website for people who are already quite familiar with the process.

Welcoming new customers

Websites want customers to leave happy as shops do
Customers like reassurance that they have checked their new items out successfully online – photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

Alienation is when you are left feeling “other” or excluded. It is the opposite of connection. The Internet is supposed to be all about connectivity. The key to a welcoming, absorbing, easy to navigate and accessible website is to understand how people work.

Navigating a website for the first time is exactly like following a map to a new and unfamiliar place. Once we have visited a new town, we will recognize landmarks and know the way in and out. If we drive around forever looking for a car park that is not signposted from the main road, we will leave disappointed. This can feel like rejection to some people.

Here are some examples of where websites missed out on the opportunity to communicate their processes to customers.

  • A food website with a shopping basket didn’t tell customers that to add items they needed to select a delivery day.
  • A print website advertising an express delivery service required customers to specifically select “non-laminate” on the first page of their website to access the speedy printing.
  • A train company left customers to try and select the station to collect their tickets from by putting in bold red letters that they did not need to pick a specific train unless paying for a seat. Trains go to Margate from all over London but you cannot try each one to collect a ticket before departure. They are too far apart. A simple signpost to pick a departure would suffice.
  • A coffee website used the word “next” for “current” not “adjacent” so customers never knew what coffee they were ordering and when. Correct word use helps.
  • A mail-order clothes company didn’t provide a step by step guide to returns, resulting in many negative Trust Pilot reviews.
  • An airmiles website failed to tell customers about a service name change and users needed to reactivate their account to access their existing points.

Communication is remarkably good value. Perhaps if it was more reassuringly expensive, it may be valued more. Communication is information, not lots of words. You do not get an entire road map to Leeds from London but follow each signpost on each new road you join.

The simple way to make your website accessible and a pleasure to use for new customers is by:

  • A quick start guide – where you imagine visiting your website (or get someone who is unfamiliar with it to successfully check-out with an item) and to give a step by step guide.
  • Signposts – adding words to guide people. For example “Select a train for your departure station” above a timetable. Or “Select non-laminate for express delivery“. Or “To add items to basket you must select your delivery day” above menu items.
  • Email communication – if a customer has registered but never seems to shop, it is good to contact the customer and ask if they would like a username and/or password reset link for their account. Also, it gives you a chance to get useful feedback about your website.

Ensuring information reaches people’s radars. People tend to have various things in their minds at once. It is possible to buy things casually on Amazon and eBay. However, not so on Discogs. To say “Your order has been placed” suggests check-out has happened. An unexpected email with an invoice to pay is very easy to miss.

Login Accessibility

One excruciatingly alienating part of any new website is one that is extremely difficult to log in to.

  • If you use a term such as “Login ID” then include more information on the same page. This will prompt users to enter their email, membership number or username.
  • When a link is provided – “Forgotten my USER ID” ought to signpost them to an email they received previously. This would make it easier for them to find an alternative way to identify themselves.
  • Forgotten their password – ask for the email to send them a reset link.
  • VIP for access – allow users to see the password they have entered, not just turn it straight into bullet points. This is not an ATM. They are likely to be able to hide the password, especially on their home computer.

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Sophie Sweatman
Born in south London and brought up in Surrey I had a very enjoyable social and active childhood and then got sent to boarding school where the only escape was team sports and music. I greatly enjoyed trying to predict number one records. My first published piece was in the school magazine, then after my O’levels I got the plum work experience job on the local paper and after a second attempt at house style, got all the wedding reviews printed that I had written up, plus a few extra pieces. This led me to a job offer at GQ magazine but my “housewife and mother” education was continued and I went to cookery school. I started work writing for a café and booking bands, which led to work experience at Lynne Franks PR, where I learnt to do music listings, putting me in good stead for 10 years of music promotion. I booked bands at the Laurel Tree in Camden in 1997 amongst various other places, some sadly gone. Some curdled mayonnaise later I went to an art college, which was part of the American College in London to do all sorts of art-based subjects and being taught English in American was interesting but they taught Harvard Referencing so well it was no bother and I got a top grade for a 10,000 word dissertation on music law focusing on George Michael’s court case against his record company. After looking for work in non-arty south west London I moved to Crouch End and had a painting exhibition in 1994. After working for the local paper I got into the London College of Communication to do a postgraduate in periodical journalism. This was followed by an industrial placement at the Camden New Journal, where I wrote health columns inspired by What Doctors Don’t Tell You a newsletter started by Lynne McTaggart that still goes today. The Camden New Journal also inspired me to do theatre reviews, which I did each week for the London Newspaper Groups stable of papers from 1998 til 2000. My thirties was spent on self-development, resulting in a good job by 2010, when I started planning a move out of London. With an unconditional place at London College of Communication to do an MA in Broadcast Journalism but instead I moved to Falmouth and did a Professional Writing MA. In Cornwall I write for various publications and work for a record company promoting musicians and local artists. I still read What Doctors Don’t Tell You and research on health, nutrition, ancient humanity, science and various other subjects.