What brings people back?
I was looking back at our original discussion on creating a forum for content and was reminded of some topics it was suggested we could talk about. Engine mentioned “How to be creative with/for site stickiness?” I’d like to borrow his idea and jumpstart a discussion about site stickiness.
Fess up - What brings folks back to your site?
We have key features throughout our sites. Here is what they are:
Bookmark this page hyperlink
updated index page often.
refer a friend link
Mailing list, make sure you describe what they are signing up for.
a custom favorite icon for bookmarks.
Overwhelm them. Deep content, dozens of links in all directions, closely themed and cross-linked domains, and -purposely- NO onsite search.
Free tools. Web-based is best. People love to link to them, and visitors love to bookmark them...you can often grab their email address when they use them too. And tools can easily lead into all of your various forms of content.
I've had lots of success using tools like this.
>and -purposely- NO onsite search.
Don't understand your reasoning here. I use an onsite search and keep my users quite well. If you are referring to a web search tool, then I would agree; why send users away. But if you mean a search tool that visitors use to search through your website for specific content, then I'm afraid I disagree.
The nature of the internet is information retrieval. Helping a user find pertinent information on your website can only serve to make their web experience more fulfilling, and thus help to develop a positive image of your site that a user will be more likely to return to.
EliteWeb has summarised it well and concisely i feel. Of all updating the index page I think is key. Returning visitors want to know fast what new content is there, and not have to browse around to find it - they will quickly get bored with that. Also the index page should be different for a site that depends on returning visits. For a mainly sales site the front page can be static with highly refined sales copy as returning visitors are not that important, but for a mag or a dynamic site, compelling headlines, and summaries written with an indepth knowledge of your readership is key. The second technique is the email list for "updates". This is relatively easy though the key here is not to give them such good updates that they rely on the email rather than checking in at the site!
I must say RC, I tend to agree with KeyPlyr, I don't understand the reasoning here.
I think the site search helps the users to find what they are looking for, enhancing their experience.
While not having the site search will cause them to stay longer looking or come back to find something else, they may get frustrated by not being able to find something quick enough and leave for good.
I've seen several studies that indicate that onsite search may actually contribute to frustration rather than alleviate it.
J. Random Surfer doesn't always use a search box to his or her advantage. A prominently displayed search box seems too inviting and rather than use the navigation available, the surfer tends to hop right in the site search.
Quite often, if the search utility is a free version of a commercial product, the surfer is either overwhelmed with results, often irrelevant ones, or finds no results. Rather than continue to look onsite, they promptly leave and look elsewhere.
Proper spelling, use of quotes, boolean searches, etc, are all something that webmasters and SEOs take into consideration. The average surfer does not.
If you design your own onsite search, you can make the adjustments required to help keep people onsite, but using someone else's solution may actually hurt your page views.
|brotherhood of LAN|
Check out the previous threads about "professional forum spammers" also.
This particular forum is "sticky" because it is moderated well, I will not see false information without someone correcting it and I wont come across someone who is going to not make some sort of valid point or decent joke in the thread! :)
IMO there is a community spirit here, and this is partly because we share the same interest (as reflected by the site), and we also share the same respect about the forum and the info it provides
So make sure that your sticky site has some of the pro's of webmasterworld :)
As for a search box, the current design on my site has a search box for tutorials. 10% of page views are searches, and each searcher usually searches twice for something. If the site is big, get a site search. As long as the search produces valid results, then I see no problem in using one. I am sure "Joe Average" can make a clear choice whether they choose to use a search function or not.
If the site is sticky, they will know if it is of use to them or not
Personally, I think quality writing is very important. It's not enough to have tons of helpful information, the way it is presented has to be engaging, perhaps peppered with some humor where appropriate, in order to really get people coming back. Otherwise a site can quickly bring up memories of sitting in horribly dull college lectures.
Stickyness will be enhanced by adding "valuable," fresh information.
The question needs to be asked.
How often would you expect visitors to return: Monthly, weekly, or daily?
A research site would not necessarily need daily updates, however, it would be compulsory for a news site - that's a given.
Also, it's essential to encourage the visitor to bookmark the site before they drift off somewhere else.
I think the answer depends on the type of site you're running. If you have an editorially driven "content site" (as I do), your best bet is probably to have so much content that readers won't be able to get their fill in one sitting.
Having extensive directories of related links to third-party sites may also be helpful. If users regard your site as a hub for the topic they're interested in, they'll return to continue with their explorations.
I do think "community" is highly overrated as a way to build stickiness. It doesn't work on all sites (forums and chats tend to be a bust on information sites unless there's a critical mass of traffic), and users who come to chat or post messages aren't necessarily interested in your editorial content or in what your advertisers, affiliate merchants, etc. have to sell.
>I must say RC, I tend to agree with KeyPlyr, I don't understand the reasoning here.
>I think the site search helps the users to find what they are looking for, enhancing their experience.
Oops. Sorry, missed this one but DG nailed it. I'm a firm believer in John Q's innate LACK of ability to search... they think they can search and that's why it's particularly dangerous. They'll come to your site, hit the search box, miss the proper SERP by a wide mark, and leave. Sometimes, if you're ever so lucky, they will take time to send you an email cursing your site's inadequacies. I ran Atomz (the pro version, very nice) on my most popular sites and the 404 page all of 2001, btw.
If I've done my job right, I know what they're there for anyway. So, I'd rather overwhelm them with possibilities, then gently lead them to the money page, but that's another thread.
We seem to have very good numbers for folks hanging around and bookmarking our site. I think the reason is that we understand what they want. By providing what they are looking for they keep coming back.
Isn't the same reason any of us return to an offline store the same reason that user come back to us. I don't think it's any more complicated than that or that there is some magic formula.
You have to understand your purpose and stick to it.
I don't think it has anything to do with new content or much else. You could have the same contant every day if that is what the user was interested in.
For instance, if I had a site that listed the type and description of every airplace made in every country, that info doesn't change very much. But users might return often if they have an interest in aviation and like reading about different airplanes.
As always, it's just food for thought.
"Also, it's essential to encourage the visitor to bookmark the site before they drift off somewhere else."
How do you accomplish this?
We use the link for Internet Explorer browsers. I'd LOVE to be able to set something up, at the server level, that would spawn a window asking them if they would like to bookmark our site for future reference.....How feasible would this be at the server level (I don't want to hand edit the pages to add code for this)
I realize that I am a newbie here, and do not design sites for others, however your comments about "to search or not to search," got me thinking. And that is one of my favorite things to do.
Prior to my retirement, I owned numerous businesses. And I look at many web sites as a business, even the not for profit ones, like mine. Simply because your goal is to attract new browsers, and turn them into users.
One thing I learned in the business world, is that if you listen to your customers, they will tell you what they want. And THAT is one of the ways I use a search engine. I look at the "not found" results, to see what I need to add. And I look at the "found" results to see what I need to keep.
On the flip side, I notice that by having access to a search window, most people are to lazy to browse through various sections and therefore miss out on a lot of information. So, like many things, there are pro's and con's.
Just my thoughts
I took on a client with a site search and convinced them to try removing it as soon as I finished changing the IA and navigation cues around. Our page views per session have done nothing but climb since then - now 300% improved. And no one has asked us to put the search back, so far (8 months).
I have to agree with the reduced visual noise level approach. I feel, the less options you give the user to quit with their current mission, means more page views and more satisfied surfers.
Quality of information, freshness, and ease of use are my three most important considerations in developing a sticky site. It takes all three ingredients to make the glue.
|"People are extremely good at remembering graphic design," says Ted Selker |
say cheese, if the mouse moves right or down, its sticky..
Give them something to do. Games, puzzles, quizes and polls.
after removing site search...
|Our page views per session have done nothing but climb |
What I am trying to do is the exact oposite. I provide the site search so that the user gets to the product he is looking for faster, with the goal to reduce the number of page views per purchase (and per session).
One thing I do to increase the stickiness is the personalization of some pages, using user profiles and purchase histories. Some users really like.
In forums it works out for me to encourage controversial topics and strong opinions - it makes people more interested and involved, because they need to take position. One Everyman per forum really gets things going :)
|Give them something to do. Games, puzzles, quizes and polls. |
Add tools to that list, just make sure the tools fit with your site's theme or content.
Hey, stickiness depends on WHAT your users want to do.
If you have an information site, then the best ways to keep people coming back is to ensure that you have fresh content (regular content updates - uh, did it for a while and it's a pain!), easy navigation and even good links (i.e. the hub authority idea).
If it's an e-commerce site, then a product/site search is a must to make sure that users find what they want asap.
IMHO, gimmicks such as games and puzzles are useless unless they're the main feature of your site. Who's going to keep on coming back to your site just because the only good thing is the Tetris Java game? And why would you want them to?
Just my .02€ ;)
I have a lot of would-be sticky features on one of my sites... but newsgroups/forums is where 80% of the traffic hangs out.
That and giving certain people forum administration priviledges... gives them instant expert status, and gives the newsgroup a sense of direction. Find someone respectable but chatty, who couldn't shut up if ordered by Congress. Pretty constant traffic flow, once word gets thru the grapevine.
Lots of changing content, forums, newsgroups, guestbook (essential), forms to communicate with webmaster, polls, quizes and anything else which allows visitors to communicate and be communicated with. The more a visitor feels like he can talk and listen the better.
I feel a site map, onsite search and changes page are absolutely essential for any site of any significance. It's getting so that if I run across a large site without a search I just back out fast - it's just too difficult to go hand searching threw a site for what i need.