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Chapter 4. Transactors > Provide the Shortest Path to Transact

Provide the Shortest Path to Transact


Make your transactions quick—quick to get to and quick to complete.

Web site users don’t necessarily do all their shopping in one visit. They might go to your site, mull things over for a day or two, and then come back. Alternatively, they might have seen a product in a magazine or newspaper and decided to go to your site to find it and buy it. In any case, it’s important to enable these users to transact with as few clicks as possible. This section focuses on ways you can help your users get to and complete their transactions as quickly as possible.

Make Your Call to Action Readily Available

Your call-to-action area is the area on your web site where you ask users to transact. This is the buy, apply, or contact button that you want your users to click. To capitalize when your users are ready to transact, you need to make your call to action readily available.

It All Starts at Home

For some sites, it makes sense to enable your users to begin transacting right from the home page. For a financial services site, this might mean providing access to account information or loan-application forms up front. For an online service, this translates to having your sign-up form linked from your home page. This is not about being presumptuous that your users will want to transact right away; it is about allowing predecided users to transact without having to dig through your site.

Chase’s web site provides a call-to-action area on its home page that provides immediate access for transactors to apply for its banking products. www.chase.com

List and Buy

To get to an individual product (or service) on your web site, your users will probably have to navigate through what can be referred to as product-listing pages. These include any pages that contain a list of products for users to gain access to. Examples of product-listing pages include your home page if it has featured items, main section and subsection pages that contain a category of products or services, and site search results when product or service matches are displayed for a user’s search inquiry.

When it comes to these product-listing pages, however, don’t shy away from providing a direct link for users to transact on the listed items. Don’t make your users wait until they get to the individual product or service page to be able to transact. Keep in mind that you don’t know whether these users are on their first visit or their eighth. It might be that these users know what they want and just want to get into the site, buy what they want, and get out.

Whether on its main section pages or its search results, Wal-Mart’s product-listings pages enable users to buy (via the “Add to Cart” button) without having to go to the individual product page. www.walmart.com

Being Available Means Being Visible

If users can’t see something on your web site, it isn’t there. As users scan more and more web sites, they start to develop expectations as to what certain elements (such as a buy button) should look like and where they should be located. Making your call to action available means making sure it’s visible to your users. Here are some quick do’s and don’ts for making your calls to action seen:

  • Don’t hide them only at the very top of your pages. If your site has only one main call to action (such as contacting you or signing up to be a member), don’t just hide it in your top navigation bar. Some sites place their contact or sign-up link only at the top of each page as a means to make it available. The problem with this approach is that users might ignore the top area because that’s where they expect to find banner ads, or they might only look there when they want to navigate to another section rather than to take action. The ideal place for your call-to-action area is within your main content area above the screen fold.

    What’s a Screen Fold?

    The screen fold is an imaginary line on your web page that represents the cutoff point for what users can see without scrolling. The term is borrowed from newspapers, where the most important headlines are placed “above the fold” so that users can see them even when the newspaper is folded in the newsstand.

  • Do make your calls to action clickable. Web users have been trained to click on two things: links and buttons. If your calls to action don’t look like links or buttons, your users might be ignoring them. A definite no-no is to make your transaction links look like banner ads; in these cases, your transaction rates will definitely be low.

  • Don’t be afraid to be redundant. When it comes to your calls to action, it’s okay to have redundant links leading to them. For example, if your site requires users to sign up, you might have a prominent signup button to the right of your main content above the screen fold, and you might also have a textual link at the end of the content at the bottom of your page so that users don’t have to scroll back up to transact.

CafePress.com enables users to set up their own virtual storefront. The main call to action is to become a member, but it’s a little bit hidden. A Join button is buried in the main navigation bar, and a “Sign Up Now” link is unfortunately below the screen fold and does not look very clickable. At the very least, however, this site does have redundant links to the sign-up form. www.cafepress.com

Taking Direct Orders

As you browse through Spiegel’s retail catalog, you’ll not only notice the latest in spring fashions, but if you look closely at each of the product descriptions, you’ll see a catalog number for each item. When users go to Spiegel’s web site, they can enter this same catalog number to directly order an item. This type of directness makes it easy for your users to find exactly what they’ve already decided to buy.

Spiegel’s web site enables users to order items directly by catalog number. www.spiegel.com

If you don’t have the capability to integrate product codes with your advertisements and your web site (like the rest of us mere mortals), the next best thing is to have some visual connection between what was seen offline and what is presented at the web site. The objective is to provide an easy transition for users who have decided on a product or service; they need to be able to find and buy what they want.

On a related note, suppose you want to advertise a back-to-school sale on acid-wash jeans (in which case, it should probably be a clearance sale). On your flyer, you might want to include a graphic logo for “Back-to-School Acid-Wash Jeans Sale” throughout the advertisements. When users visit your web site, they should also see the same logo, should be able to click on it, and should see the same items that were featured in your printed flyer. Hopefully, you’ll be able to sell (or get rid of) all of your acid-wash jeans.

Fork Your Transactions

When you are designing the flow of your checkout process or application form, you need to think about how you can make it as efficient as possible for your users. Take, for example, the real-life scenario of an insurance agent gathering your information for a life-insurance application form. If you smoke, he’ll ask you questions 6 to 10; otherwise, he’ll skip right to number 11. What the agent is doing is selectively asking some upfront questions to expedite the information-gathering process

The same logic applies to any multistep form. You need to ask your users some key “forking” questions up front and then dynamically assemble the form. For example, Kanetix is an online insurance-quoting engine. As its first question, it asks users applying for auto insurance to specify how many cars and how many drivers the quote is for. As users then click through the form, they only need to answer the minimum number of questions that are applicable to them. Instead of having a one-size-fits-all form that is longer than it needs to be, forking questions enable you to dynamically adjust the form to suit your users’ needs. This increases the likelihood that they will complete the transaction.

At Kanetix, questions such as the number of drivers and vehicles are strategically placed up front to minimize the length of the overall form. www.kanetix.com

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