The little known way to please all your visitors

by Martin Reed on 23 October 2007 in Articles

Please all your forum members

Everyone knows that for your website to be successful, you need to please your visitors. Your site needs to be easy to use, and must meet the needs and wants of your visitors if you are to retain them. If you make your site too basic though, you risk alienating your regular, long term members.

Keep it simple, but interesting

Your website needs to be simple and easy to use. Your navigation should be consistent, and every feature of your site should be intuitive. By keeping your site simple, you are ensuring that every first time visitor can access and understand all the features of your site from the beginning. It is no good having a wealth of complicated features if new visitors have no idea how to use them – if you do this, you’ll never increase your membership base.

Just because you need to keep your site simple, it doesn’t mean you can’t offer additional features. After all, if you keep your site too basic, your existing members may get bored and move on to other communities that are evolving with their members.

Advanced features do not need to be complicated

You should always be adding new features to your website, or at least be researching new features that you feel would be beneficial to your community. You need to ensure that any new feature you add is easy to use, though. Try out a new feature before releasing it publicly – see it through the eyes of a first time visitor. Make sure that every aspect is intuitive and can be used without having to trawl through a lengthy help or ‘FAQ’ section.

The best features of your site will be powerful but simple to use – you are constantly balancing on a tightrope between pleasing your regular, advanced users and making things as simple as possible for first time visitors.

Keep advanced features optional

Advanced features should only ever be optional. Not every member or visitor to your website will necessarily be interested in using advanced features – only a minority of your members may actually be interested in getting to know and understand anything more than the basic features needed to use your site.

If you force your members to learn and use advanced features, your site may become a little overwhelming for new members and first time visitors. The last thing you want to do is scare these people away – you need to please the long term members but keep your site intuitive for the newbies!

Keep the learning curve shallow

When you introduce new features, your members should be able to learn how to use them relatively quickly. You don’t want to confuse your members by suddenly introducing a fantastic feature that takes hours to learn. Every aspect of your site should be intuitive and easy to use, but don’t use this as an excuse to stop developing new features for your site.

You need to keep your current members happy by continuing to evolve your community, but you also need to continue attracting new members by keeping your site as simple and easy to use as possible. If you ignore this fact, you will never be able to please all your site’s visitors.

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Hirsutism October 24, 2007 at 4:47 am

Very nice post.
Martin I think you have been quite successful in pleasing your visitors.

Amish Handcrafted Furniture October 24, 2007 at 11:32 am

An important aspect is to listen to what your visitors say. If they dislike something they must be able to voice it and the blogger must be able to accept that and if reasonable, modify it.

Online furniture store October 24, 2007 at 11:59 am

If there is one single biggest way to put off visitors to your site, it is if pages take ages to load. When the person is serching for some information or anything like that, and has to wait and wait some more while some fancy but unnecessary stuff loads on to a page, that has to be the most irritating and frustrating experience.

Martin Reed - Blog Author October 26, 2007 at 5:54 pm

Hirsutism – Thanks for your kind comment; I aim to please!

Ramana – I couldn’t agree more, especially when it comes to community websites. If you don’t listen to your audience, you are destined to fail. It really is as simple as that.

Online furniture store – You’re right. I have found that people are becoming far less attentive to optimising load times due to the increasing proliferation of broadband. Remember though, that there are still a large number of people using dial-up and in any case you should always optimise your site so it runs as fast as possible.

Romeo Abdo April 29, 2008 at 10:02 pm

the best way to please the visitor is to give him what he’s looking for.

Martin Reed - Blog Author April 30, 2008 at 4:25 pm

Romeo – Great point! I am kicking myself for leaving out something so simple, yet so important.

Nicole Price March 4, 2009 at 9:36 pm

I am glad you linked to this post from the headline post. I somehow missed this one earlier.

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