Over the weekend I made some targeted updates to Kayaking.org. The changes were focused on optimizing my landing page so that the user’s attention is focused where it should be. If you’ve been following-along with Kayaking.org then you’ve seen the site grow and develop – if not I’ve included the posts below so you can get up to speed!
So this weekend I took it upon myself to really tweak the landing page to make sure that my average visitor can find what they are looking for as quickly and easily as possible. Along with ease-of-use I also want to direct visitors to the most commonly used areas of the site, in a way using crowd-sourcing to drive design.
If you want to really understand landing page optimization there is no better book than Landing Page Optimization by Tim Ash.
In his book Tim discusses everything you could ever want to know about landing page optimization. One section that really sticks with me is in Chapter 4 where Tim discusses “Understanding the Decision Process.” In this chapter he discusses what he calls “The Rules of Web Awareness” which are:
The Rules of Web Awareness
- If the visitor can’t find something easily, it does not exist.
- If you emphasize too many items, all of them lose importance.
- Any delay increases frustration.
(Landing Page Optimization, p.70)
When looking at Kayaking.org the first thing I thought was, “how can I make it as easy as possible for my average user to find exactly what they are looking for?” Tim’s first point is so true – if the visitor can’t find something easily, it does not exist. So when I initially launched Kayaking.org I created a menu with the top three things people are looking for when searching for Kayaking:
The first three things are what over 50% of visitors are looking for when they search for “kayaking.” The fourth option is one of my own that I want to be front-and-center, and easy to find – Start your own Kayaking Blog. I’m allowing people to have blogs at Kayaking.org which means they can get a URL like www.kayaking.org/mike. I think this will be a great way to organically grow the content on my site.
Well the problem with the first version of my landing page was that this list of options sat below an Amazon book widget. The book widget made no sales in the first month which tells me, it’s not what my visitors are looking for! Here is a before look at what the front page of Kayaking.org looked like:
As you can see your eyes have to decide whether to go for the books or the navigation menu. While the navigation menu is still clearly visible above the fold the books are the center of attention. I had an interim update after this where I added a Twitter button and store locator button but it wasn’t well organized and I felt like the visitor could get too easily confused.
So this weekend I put some time into really understanding where my visitor was going on my site and how to best direct them as easily as possible to what they are looking for. Like the third rule of awareness – any delay increases frustration! Below is a screenshot of what the new front page of Kayaking.org looks like:
Now I’ve cleaned-up the top of the page so that the list of options is in the top-left and a big button is front-and-center making it easy for people to share their trip reports. One thing I’ve learned about Kayakers is they love to share where they just went Kayaking. There is an active community of Kayakers on Twitter and I am engaging them and encouraging them to share their trips on Kayaking.org. Over time I hope that many Kayakers will just automatically add their trip to Kayaking.org since we will have the largest database of kayaking trips online!
I have added a “Twitter Picture of the Week” – this is just a great way to add a dynamic and social piece to the site. Since I am becoming very active with the Kayaking community on Twitter this feature is a great one to have.
Then on the right side of the page I have a button to find a kayaking store near you, a button to follow Kayaking.org on Twitter, and a brand-new Kayaking book for sale. Rather than having a banner ad directly visible like I had initially I thought – “what product could be sold that would be directly relevant to my visitor?” A Kayaking book was one of the first things that came to mind…but I know people online like instant gratification so then I thought – an eBook would be perfect! I went over to ClickBank and found a great book about how to get started with Kayaking and added it to the site.
I still haven’t even started my SEO tweaks yet on the site as it is very important for me to get the landing-page right. Soon I’ll have some posts covering some of the search engine optimizations I’m making so all you SEO-geeks out there just be patience 🙂
Landing page optimization is something that I think gets overlooked very frequently by new developers. You’d be surprised how much small tweaks to your landing page can make a BIG difference. When I first heard Tim Ash speak he was taking about increasing a website’s revenue by hundreds of thousands of dollars just by making small targeted changes to their landing page! If you are working on building a brand and a business online like I am with Kayaking.org make sure your landing page is everything it can be, or you and your visitors could be missing-out on the true potential of your site!