Thursday, May 24, 2007

Lessons in Web Design

I've learned so much about how people surf since I put up my website in January. Well, at least how they surf my site. My site designers made a big production about the need for what they called a high impact home page. Their reasoning seemed sensible to me at the time, but I've discovered that very little matters other than the top navigational bar. I single out new pages and write new copy for the bullet point items in the What's New section of my home page at least weekly, but it garners almost no attention at all. You'd expect to see a spike in visits to What's New section pages, but no. Judging from page hit numbers and patterns, sub-pages seem to get hit when someone is already poking around in their area, not because they were highlighted on the home page. I spend what I'm realizing is an inordinate and utterly non-cost-effective amount of time on the What's New section. I'm tempted to put up bullet points in another language or in gibberish - or write something inappropriate - just to see what happens.

What people like to do is click on all the tabs in the top navigational bar. This is often apparently just for fun - I continue to get a lot of hits on the Contact page without a lot of corresponding contact, and the correlation between clicks on the Order page and actual orders of my books is, shall we say, far from one-for-one.

The web folks also insisted that the best sites are "sticky" sites - meaning that they get a lot of repeat visitors. I'm not sure exactly why this is considered so great. As long as average daily page hits continue to increase, do I really care if it's repeat visitors or new ones? In fact, in the interest of selling books, might I not actually prefer all new people? Is there really much chance that the supply of potential new visitors will run out before I do? Still, though, I guess I'll stipulate that repeat visits probably signify that the site is of interest or useful or something else good. I do want to maintain a site that is useful and fun. But it's hard to be purposeful about what I post with all this seemingly aimless surfing. It's all a bit more of an "if you build it, they will come" shot in the dark than I expected.
Luckily, I enjoy the effort.

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