Is Navigating your Mobile-Optimized Website Like Shopping at IKEA?

January 8, 2018 by

Ever shop at IKEA?

I love IKEA. I’ve bought there often. I’m impressed by their product selection and the value they offer. They do a great job serving the furnishing needs of people on a wide range of budgets.

But I also hate IKEA.

When I need just one or two things, I can’t go directly to what I need. They make me walk through every department, past every product they sell, before I can check out with my purchase. They don’t help me find exactly what I need, quickly.

Recently, I’ve noted a similar trend in websites – especially B2B websites – which I find similarly annoying.

An irritating trend in corporate website design

For several years, the big trend in website design has been optimization for mobile devices. Most websites now adapt to smaller screens. They’re built for easier touch screen navigation and vertical scrolling. Certainly, this is a trend we applaud, as both we and our prospects do more and more of our online searching, reading and viewing from our smartphones.

But much of the mobile optimization I see is poorly executed. On many corporate websites, I find there’s too much emphasis on vertical scrolling.

Frequently, when I encounter one of these sites, I find myself scrolling through a series of screens that are either (a) blocks of text with no links to related material, or (b) big “buttons” (large touch-link areas) labeled with either a brief call to action (CTA) or even just a word or two.

Strangely, the buttons and their labels are often unrelated to the text preceding them. They offer me little reason to think I might find what I’m looking for by clicking on them. These big buttons often appear one after another – or side by side when viewed on a PC. Menus are extremely limited, as well. And there’s precious little sign-posting that says, ‘If you’re interested in learning more about A, click here. If you’re interested in B…’ etc.

The overall effect is like a trip to IKEA. It’s tedious to find what I’m looking for. I have to scroll past everything on the site!

But unlike at IKEA, I'm not a captive audience. I don’t have to go through every department to get to the exit. If I get fed up with your website, I can always hit the ‘back’ button or close my browser tab. Your loss!

The Internet is not IKEA

Here’s what the designers and owners of these sites don’t seem to understand: The way people use the internet is not the way people shop at IKEA. Most website visitors share two characteristics which make the IKEA model a bad one for corporate website design.

First, website visitors are predominantly task-driven. They’re seeking specific information that will fill a knowledge gap and help them make a decision – either an immediate decision, or decisions in the future. Finding that information is their goal.

Second, they’re impatient. They want to complete their task as quickly as possible. If they can’t easily find what they’re looking, they'll likely leave and search elsewhere.

How to spare your prospects the “IKEA experience”

To avoid giving visitors the run around, you must bear in mind the following four points when optimizing (or re-optimizing) your website for mobile.

First, the most important objective of your website, and every page within it, is this: help your visitors find exactly what they’re looking for, quickly and easily.

Second, the navigation and information flow of every page must be logical and easy to follow. That’s your main tool for achieving your primary objective. Your menus and your pages should offer abundant logical branches – in the form of links to other pages – which help visitors find the quickest path to what they seek.

Third, your content must be sufficiently detailed to allow visitors to make an informed decision. That decision may be to click on a link to another page, to register for a content download or free software trial, or to call and talk to a salesperson. Regardless of what the decision is, your visitor wants to know exactly what she’s getting into when she makes it.

Finally, your website shouldn’t make visitors feel like their being led on the proverbial wild goose chase. They shouldn’t be forced to follow a specific path which you, the vendor, have chosen – the way they are in IKEA. They want to be treated like they’re at Nordstrom’s; they want to be guided directly to what interests them, in the most efficient way possible.

Take-away Points

  1. Optimization for mobile is great, so long as it helps visitors find the information they seek, quickly and efficiently.
  2. Scrolling is not a substitute for logical information flow and in-page links, when it comes to efficient site navigation.
  3. Your website shouldn't make visitors feel like they're shopping at IKEA – trapped in an arduous, tedious, vendor-imposed information path.
  4. The primary goal of your website and each of its pages is to help visitors find exactly what they’re looking for, quickly and easily.

Next Steps

Looking to improve the content and navigation of your website and help prospects find just the information they're looking for? Call CopyEngineer at (+39) 011 569 4951. Or send me an email at info@copyengineer.com.

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