I like to think of web sites as a choose-your-own-adventure novel. No matter what page the visitor is currently visiting, they have to make a decision about what to do next. Do they add the product to their cart? Read product reviews? Look for a better product? Download support material? Learn more about your company? Or leave?
Just like in the novels, not every decision leads to the death of the sale. In fact, you can present your visitors with multiple “correct” options. The goal is to figure out the options that are most correct for most of your visitors.
Many websites suffer from presenting too many options. “I want to cover my bases,” or “I want to make sure they can find what they want quickly,” are often the soundbites from the give-them-every-possible-option crowd. At least it’s the soundbite until you hear, “WHY AREN’T PEOPLE CONVERTING?!!!!!”
Giving website visitors too many options is often worse than giving them too few. Options make for a healthy website experience. Too many options paralyze the visitors into inaction.
I get to Vegas once or twice a year for conferences. Every time I’m there I think about taking in a show. How many shows have I seen? If you count the four times I’ve seen Blue Man Group, I’ve been to a grand total of six!
Why? Because every time I go, I see hundreds of advertisements for all the shows, and many of them look like they would be fun. The problem, for me at least, is I can never settle on one, so I choose none at all. Or I go see Blue Man Group again.
In fact, two of the three different shows I’ve seen were planned before I ever got to Vegas. The third one was with a group, so my participation in making the choice was doing what was easiest. What that tells me is that I can pick a show to go see when I’m NOT being presented with hundreds of options. I knew ahead of time what I wanted to see and I “converted,” to put it into marketing speak.
Now maybe I’m the anomaly in Vegas. But when it comes to websites, I’m not. Too many options paralyzes the visitor from taking action or, they just go with the first thing presented to them. If it doesn’t serve their purpose, they leave.
So, yes, you want to make sure every page of your site gives your visitors options for what to do next, but choose those options carefully, and keep them streamlined to the most important.
This applies to your site navigation as well. More options doesn’t help visitors find what they want, it prevents them from choosing an option to begin with.
Whenever someone lands on your site, they need to get a good understanding of what you offer and have options to go down the best path. But too many options is just too many options. You have to let visitors choose a path before you start giving them more choices.
When developing your navigation, present your core services and product categories, but not every possible sub-category. Ditch the drop down and just let the visitors commit to one option or another before presenting them with the next.
While presenting too many options on your site may not lead to your visitor’s untimely death, as in the novels, it may lead to the untimely death of the conversion. If visitors have to spend too much time thinking about how to get the information they want rather than being guided toward it, they will leave.