Three old ladies huddle around a burger with a massive bun and a tiny patty. "It certainly is a big bun." says one. "It's a big fluffy bun!" says another. Meanwhile the third stares grumpily at the sandwich and then says, "Where’s the beef!?"
She clearly wanted a real burger -- not a bun, not an air sandwich, and she didn't want to be full on just some fancy baking. No matter how good the bun looked, or tasted, it was ultimately useless without the big, beefy burger she wanted.
Similarly, this is what happens when you have designed a smashing layout with a high bounce rate. If your grids are tight, your typography is engaging, and you are getting loads of traffic, but you have a big bounce rate, then your customers are saying, "Where’s the beef!?"
No matter how fancy your site may look, if it doesn’t convert to sales, your site is lacking serious beef. A few tips to adding beef to your website:
1. Be relevant. If a visitor comes to your site expecting one thing and gets something else, they’ll leave your site with a bad taste and will likely never return. You may dress nice, but you MUST be relevant.
2. Engage users. Do this with relevant content, impeccable design and a clear call to action.
3. Provide quick value. People’s time is valuable. Make sure to give them what they want quickly or else they’ll bounce. Offer enough value so they’ll want to spend time on your site and come back again.
4. Clarity. Explain your product, how it works, what you do and why the user needs you in just a few words. The clearer your message, the quicker the reader will take action.
5. Offer Expert Advice. You can do this through blogs, white papers, webinars, etc. This lends credibility to your brand and provides a purpose behind your website. It also helps with search engine optimization by providing fresh new content, and establishing your site as an expert in your industry.
What is the next phase? While I would argue that content is king and good content strategy accounts for 3/4 of the success for a site, the remaining 1/4 rests squarely on taking that content and making it deliverable and engaging.
You need to take that valuable nugget of information, that hamburger patty you lovingly crafted, and garnish it. Present that information in a clearly legible manner. Use practical infographics that compel the visitor to sit up and pay attention. Engage them with interactive elements to help them really understand what it is they are looking at. Make that game the most amazing thing they have played recently. Compell them. Teach them. Guide them. Don't make them think.
The New York Times is a great example of great content leading the way for great design to seal the deal. Apple is another but with a more product oriented approach. ESPN is a great example of a leisure brand excelling at this. This final step will set you apart from the rest. If you are not sure how to speak to your user through these means, hire an expert. There are designers out there who speak this language so well they can engage users without them even realizing it, and these subtle successes are often times the most potent.
Never underestimate solid design backing great content strategy.
This one two punch -- opening with a focused quality content, and driving it home with a grand user experience -- will ultimately lead you to the top of the charts on a given search engine. You will keep the users you gain, lower your bounce rate, raise your conversion rate, and leave no one questioning the substance of your idea, event, or product.