Thursday, April 5, 2007

Kiss Your Customers


The word "kiss" has many meanings, depending on the context. In my family life, the primary meaning is when my little daughter goes to bed, I always give her a big kiss good night.

In my Internet life, the other important meaning pertains to web sites... yes, your web site. Because "kiss" also means "keep it simple, stupid."

The best web sites don't assume the client is an expert computer user. Technology is a wonderful thing, but most people are years behind the technical types. Therefore, your web site should be simple.

And "kiss" is a very critical concept when developing your web site.

Designing for Simplicity is Not Simple

The key to a highly successful web site isn't sophistication... it is simplicity. Just take a look at Yahoo. Your customers want to be able to find what they want, quickly, without having to wade through complex graphics and difficult navigation.

Now here is the hard part; designing for simplicity is anything but simple. But well thought-out simplicity is what can make your successful web site profitable.

Want Your Site to Have KISS Appeal?

Most people still use the Net at speeds under 56K and have their monitors set for 800 x 600 resolution. So the best web sites load in about 10 seconds at 28.8 K. Your web designers may have DSL or cable modems; but 95% of your customers do not. And the bottom line is that nobody is going to wait more than 10 to 15 seconds for your web site to appear.

Content Sells... Graphics Do Not

On the Internet, mortgage customers first look for relevant text, not graphics. Make sure you have clear well written text available straight away. That will keep your customers interested while the graphics load. Use graphics only if they help customers understand what they are looking for or if they convey information that can not be conveyed effectively through text. And keep graphics as simple and as small as possible; so they load quickly.

The best sites have simple and consistent navigation. Your average loan customer might view 2 to 3 pages before leaving. So at best, you are 2-3 clicks away from being dead in the water unless you help them get where they want to go...quickly.

The Obvious Sells

Make everything obvious. First and foremost, help your customers easily see the information -- white backgrounds are quick to download and help information stand out. Use alt tags (the labeling of images) and easy to read headlines in your content area. Offer concise explanations, with the ability to have your visitor click if they desire more in-depth information.

I Fell Down and I Can't Get Up

Provide clear navigation from anywhere; and do it on every page so that you never leave your prospect stranded anywhere on your site.

Respect Internet protocol. Blue underlined text means hyperlink, or "Click Here". And don't confuse your customers. A confused customer is lost profits. Also avoid underlining or using blue text for anything else. Place your navigation on the top or left of every page; and offer contact information at the bottom of every web page.

Nah, Nah, Hey, Hey, Goodbye

A very simple strategy, often overlooked, is to keep all your navigation links within your web site. Unless you want to encourage your customers to leave, don't offer them hyperlinks to any other site. Any trip to the menu bar is an opportunity for your prospect to kiss you goodbye.

Simple is as Simple Does

Never make a customer download plug-ins. Average customers do not know how to download. And even if they do, why take them away from the loan process and force them to do something else because some web designer thought it would be cool? Your customers won't say, "Wow!" -- they'll leave your web site.

If you can't design it into your web site and still have it load quickly; leave it out. And give your customers simple instructions and helpful tools to guide them through the loan process.

Simple Forms are Completed

Another simple tactic is to have very simple forms on your site that require just the basic information so you can "hook" your prospective visitor. We have run numerous experiments with the amount of information a customer is willing to give you and we find that more than 10 items will cause the completion rate to plummet. Long questionnaires about the exact balance of the second trust deed and the phone number of your current lender result in about a 70-80% drop off rate.

And when a Social Security number is asked for up front, many people quit filling out the form in mid-stream. Part of the reason customers don't like to provide extensive information is the issue of trust.

Do Customers Trust You?

Keep in mind: Visitors are looking for a reason not to trust you. Use of sites with non-related pop-up windows, P.O. boxes for your address and outdated copyright dates are just a few reasons to cause doubt with a potential customer.

Pay attention to the details: Check for typos, grammatical errors, screen error messages, images that don't open, browser compatibility problems, functions that don't work -- everything. Then have someone else check again, from a different machine (i.e. if you used a PC with Internet Explorer to create the site; check your site with a Mac using Netscape).

The best web sites build their brands by creating a great user experience and by making it simple to use their site.

KISS - "Keep it simple, stupid." Here's what the top web sites have in common:

  • Fast download times

  • Put what the customer wants at the top of the page

  • Few graphics

  • Compelling content

  • Consistent navigation

  • No frames

  • Links in traditional blue (underlined text)

  • No background images

  • No splash page

  • Simple and easy-to-understand

  • So you need to ask yourself, was your web site designed to kiss your customers in the right way. If not designed correctly, you will just be kissing your online profits goodbye.

    For online mortgage leads please visit our mortgage leads page.

    Originally published November 2001




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