When I go to any website, I’m looking for something. I may want to buy a product, or find information, or browse random memes, but whatever it is, I have a goal in mind. That goal could even be subconscious, but it’s there. Human beings never do anything without a reason. Whether or not they know what that reason is, or can articulate it, is a whole different story.
Like most people, I go with the website that gives me what I want the fastest. That’s it. As a designer myself, my familiarity with things like design patterns and search engines gives me an edge in finding what I want. But sometimes, even I can’t find the darn “buy this” button for a good thirty seconds.
Why, then…would you ever hide the most commonly-looked-for bits of information from people?
Why, then…would you ever hide the most commonly-looked-for bits of information from people? Why would you make it difficult in any way for them to get what they want, especially when what they want is to give you their time, attention, or even money? If they have to look for this important info, that means it’s hidden, or may as well be.
Now, designers mostly don’t do this on purpose. But it happens. In the interest of helping users find what they need, and making you some money, here’s what users are looking for first and foremost, more or less in this order:
1. What Is It, and Sometimes Why Is It?
Okay, lots of users browse around with an idea of what they’re looking for. But sometimes, a user is going to land on, let’s say your product page, because a friend sent them a link and said, “Check this out, dude!” In those situations, you really want to have at least a bit of text that describes what the product is and does.
…tell me, in simple non-industry jargon, what you do.
That’s an obvious example, perhaps. People always describe and show off their products, right? Well, things are often less clear with companies that sell services. I can’t count the number of times I’ve landed on a site that describes what they do purely in terms of benefits: “enrich your life”, “harder, better, faster, stronger”, etc.
That’s all well and good, but only after you actually tell me, in simple non-industry jargon, what you do.
2. How Much Does It Cost?
This is the obvious next step. Let’s say a website looks like it has what you need. It’s going to fill that gaping void in your life—probably—and you want it now. Well, you want it, but how much are they asking? A user should never have to go hunting for the cost of the product, service, or information.
Mind you, you should be making the cost clear, even if you’re not asking for money. Sites that offer stuff for free often try to hide the true cost of membership. Do you need their information? Their viewership alone? Their action in support of your cause? Make this information easy to find. Be up front, and people will respect you for that.
Obvious-yet-apparently-necessary corollary: Hidden fees will make them hate you.
How Do I Get Rid of It?
One thing users will also want to know, that kinda falls under the “cost”, is how long they’ve got to commit to this product or service. What is your policy on refunds, cancellations, or returns? You probably don’t want to put this information in your sales copy, unless you want to emphasize the idea that your product is a low-risk investment. In any case, it should be readily available. A link you find in the middle of the page, rather than somewhere in the footer.
3. How Good Is It?
After a user has assessed the cost of a thing, they want to know if it’s really going to be worth the money they’re shelling out. Obviously, you can throw some marketing copy up there, and try to convince them yourselves, but of course you’re going to say it’s great. You’re the one making it!
This is where social proof comes in. Testimonials are only the beginning. Be proactive and link to third party reviews. Link to your social media. Invite prospective customers to become a part of your online community before they’ve even bought your product.
4. Where Do I Get It?
Please just put a clearly labelled “Download” link at the top of the page or Github repository.
Okay, now they want to get the thing. Most commercial websites have figured out that calls to action need to be big, flashy, and obvious. Not all of them have figured it out, but most of them have by now. It’s typically older sites that remain somewhat confusing.
Where I have had a problem with hidden download buttons, since forever, is in the world of free software. That’s both freeware and proper open source projects. This is understandable, given that most of the people making these websites are volunteers, and most are somewhat new to web design.
If this describes you, I say: “Thank you for your contribution. Please just put a clearly labelled ‘Download’ link at the top of the page or Github repository.”
5. How Can I Talk to You Directly?
There are sites out there that kind of hide their contact info. Some do it from ignorance. Others do it out of a sincere desire to never talk to their customers—I get that, I really do; on top of the usual client problems, I’m a huge introvert, so I understand.
That said, you need channels for talking to humans. Even if it’s just a Twitter account, that information needs to be more or less front-and-center. Even if they never talk to you, users want to know they have the option of getting in touch with a human if something goes wrong.
The best designers remember that they are also users. They are consumers, just like everybody else, only they’re quite a bit more educated on web design patterns. If your product or service is bad, tricking people into buying it will mean they never trust you again. If you have a good product or service, then offering all necessary information right up front can only help you sell more of it.
And for the love of all that is good and decent, put that “Download” button somewhere I can see it.