Another great book by Seth Godin!
THE BIG RED FEZ - How to Make Any Web Site Better, by Seth Godin
The pachinko machine theory of web business
A website is like a Japanese pachinko machine. Plenty of balls (traffic) come in at the top of the machine. The challenge (which is totally under your control) is how to design the layout of the site so that the balls - or most of them - go where you want them.
The balls toward the bottom of the machine are worth far more to you than the fresh balls just in on the top. Your goal is to have a site where X% of the balls you put in at the top end up doing what you want, and where X is at a level that gives you a profit.
First rule of the banana
There are two versions of what happens online.
The engineer's version, which is that smart people, with plenty of time, who know precisely what they want from their online surfing and are able to make a considered decision with access to all data.
The marketer's version, which is that people are busy, ill-informed, impatient, and eager to click on something right now. Like a monkey walking into a new situation, all it wants to know is "Where's the banana?"
The first rule of the banana is when a person visits your webpage, they decide if they're going to stay in less than three seconds. If they don't know what to do, they hit the Back button. So make a single big clear banana.
Nobody cares about you
Customers don't show up at your site to schmooze with your sales force. If I have to stop to read some useless information, I'm going to flee.
One goal per page
Many web pages have multiple functionalities (search what I want, read a headline, click on a banner, log in, etc.). This is a mistake. Make a different page for each important banana.
Make it easy for the user, not for you
Make your forms intelligent. Pre-fill fields. Don't default to Afghanistan in the country drop-down. Make the forms easy for the user.
Ask for the minimum information
Do you really need to know the client's phone, address, gender, citizenship, etc.? Ask for the minimum information that you really need.
Don't return "no matches"
If you have a search function, never return "no matches found". At least return something. E.g. the ten most searched items, a page of discounts, etc.
Don't make it hard to figure out how to buy the product. Have a clear BUY NOW button.
Work on your error page
Have a Help button on your error page.
Don't ask twice
If you already know the client's email address, don't ask for it again. Have your site remember it and pre-fill any forms that require it again.
Do you really need users to register?
Make as much site functionality available without forcing the client to register.
Test the money path
You can't test everything on your site, but at least test the money path, and do it every day! Test you can actually buy your product.
The web isn't TV
Forget about those high-bandwidth flash videos.
Keep your promises
If your link says "Click here to find out XYZ" then be sure to uphold that promise when the user clicks on the link.
Don't ask cryptic questions
E.g. don't ask clients to choose between SSL and non-SSL login. It's cryptic and just confuses clients. Make the choice for the customer.
Take a breath
Don't scare clients with long forms; cut up a long form into several screens, and give them encouragement as they go along.
Say "Thank you"
When a client has completed a purchase, say thank you! Show you appreciate his business.
Avoid the email round-trip
Many sites send a registration code/link to the client's email. Then, the client then has to leave the website, go to his email client, hope that the email has been delivered, and then go back to the site. Ask yourself whether you really need this level of security.
Watch your spam
If you spam your clients, you may succeed in getting a 5% signup rate on whatever product you are selling, but perhaps at the expense of irritating the other 95% of your client base. Ask yourself whether it is worth it.
Your email should be me-mail
People don't want to get mail from you about you. They want to get mail from you about them.
It's not about you
Most web sites are exercises in narcissism. Me, me, me the site proclaims. But I don't care about you or your company. I care about me!