Turbulence at Your Website

Think of water in a pool surrounded by rocks, with a gentle stream moving through it. It can be peaceful, moving smoothly downstream in a soothing yet apparently purposeful motion. It can be beautiful and refreshing, and it can even offer delightful surprises as a water lily catches your eye or a fish jumps playfully in the sun.

Now think of boulders impeding the flow of water, making it change its course and jump down onto rocks below. Not as peaceful, right? It might be exciting, but if your main goal was to move downstream, this might not be your first choice.

You want your visitor’s experience at your website to be more like a smooth flowing stream and less like white water.

How can you tell if there are areas of friction and turbulence at your website? You probably can’t tell by trying it out yourself. You know how it works. You might be able to catch it by having people who are not familiar with your website test it.

When we test websites, we often see points where testers take their hands off the keyboard or mouse, sit back in their chairs, and frown. This is not because they’re mesmerized by the exciting waterfall they’ve found, but because they’re not sure where to go next.

To us, that’s something to fix.

You can also find areas of friction and turbulence with your web analytics. Here are some signs that the rocks are in the way of the smooth flow of the water:

  • People abandon their carts without making a purchase.
  • Pages other than blog posts have a high bounce rate.
  • Visitors jump back and forth between your Contact page and your About Us page, as though they can’t make up their minds.
  • There is no clear pattern of visitor flow.
  • People click back and forth from the homepage rather than following the path you’ve designed.

Clues like these let you find the areas of friction and turbulence — the places where visitors are not having a pleasant float downstream but are running into the rocks.

Once you’ve identified areas of friction, don’t jump around changing everything wildly. Don’t destroy the whole pool and try to dig a trench. Instead, choose an area of friction you can understand and make a change. Then wait and watch your analytics for a couple of weeks to see the effects. Do some A/B testing, or at least give your data time to settle into a new pattern.

Once you’re sure you know the results of your first change, make another well-thought-out change. In this way, you can maintain the beauty of your pool as you move the rocks into a more pleasing pattern without causing unexpected new problems.

This takes longer than jumping in and splashing around throwing rocks everywhere, but it’s also more likely to lead to a serene visitor flow… and better ROI for your website.


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