What a Website Wants

What does a website want?

In a presentation yesterday I explained it like this. For the first-time user a website wants three things:

1) During the first 15 to 30 seconds after I arrive on a website, I need to know that I have arrived at the right place.

This is the brand establishment moment—a critical juncture—and the moment when I decide to stay or go. If the brand message—visuals, text, overall look and feel—are right, I recognize that I have, in fact, come to the right place, and I stick around long enough for number 2.

2) After I know where I am, I need to orient myself.

“How do I get around here?” I need to SEE the navigation, and to understand how it works. The main navigation should be in a place that I expect it to be—a place I have seen it before. I’m not here to solve a puzzle, I’m here to find out what I’ve come to find out. This means the main navigation should be obvious. It can be large or not so large; if it is in a place I expect, then I will find it and use it. It may also be useful if there are alternate navigation “buckets” or some other nonlinear means of previewing other interior content I might be interested in to help me if I do not organize my mind via a purely analytical system.

What a Website Wants3) Now I’ve found what I’m looking for. Here comes the heart of the contemporary web: CONTENT. (Google also likes this very much by the way.)

Everything depends on the site actually delivering useful or interesting content. This can be as expansive as the universe and that’s ok. I want all the content to be there or accessible from there. The richer and more complete the content the better.

That’s what a website wants.

There’s more to it of course, but that’s the short answer.

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