white-knightWhere Engagement Begins
Most of the clients I work with on a day-to-day basis often think engagement begins when a prospective motorists lands on their website. But in fact, it started days or perhaps even months prior to them even knowing their shop existed. Many of the factors that result in successful engagement are rooted in the experiences with others websites (that were browsed before yours). These experiences, good or bad, have formed a foundation of trust, which allows users to detect whether or not it’s worth their time to engage with your website beyond the home page. Therefore, it’s paramount that your website be perceived and deliver the mechanisms that build a “trust-worthy” experience within just a few short seconds. This way you can capture their attention and build on their interests.

Where Engagement Ends
If successful engagement for a website is rooted in this idea of “trust”, what are some examples that we can readily identify to help our understanding? And what are other websites doing to shake this foundation? To first grasp this concept, we must first acknowledge that trust begins the moment your motorist starts typing into their browser.

As we all know. trying to solve a problem on the Internet is a lot like taking a stroll through a mall you’ve never been to.  It’s usually a shrill combination of both sensory overload and confusion. Half the time, you’re simply looking for helpful signage to point you in the right direction. You end up being bombarded every 5 feet with giant posters that jump out at you to say, “HEY, LOOK AT ME!”, “BUY ME!, “WHY AREN’T YOU LOOKING AT ME”, “DON’T YOU KNOW I’M CHEAPER AND MORE INTERESTING THAN THE GUY ACROSS THE WAY???”  That’s pretty much the opposite of what you’re looking to achieve.

If there’s no one around to guide you into the right direction, finding what you’re looking for can be pretty challenging, and at times, an annoying task. By the end of the experience, you’re tired, you’re feet hurt, and what you were looking for may not have even been there in the first place. The only emotional comfort you have might be a chocolate cookie on the way out the door but you can’t even enjoy the sweet smell of it after being inadvertently sprayed in the face one too many times with free cologne samples.

Frustrating, yes?

Well believe it or not, engagement for a website is no different.

The Search Experience
As soon as the search button is pressed and the hurdles of competing results flash on screen, a user will spend precious time navigating through website after website–dodging a barrage of frustrating elements, advertisements, broken links, confusing navigation, and inescapable “animated intros”, whose purpose is seemingly to annoy more so than it is to help. Much like our analogy of going to the mall, other websites (not even yours), may be contributing to a terrible search experience–shattering the most crucial component in the foundation of engagement, which is TRUST.

More often than not, users will NOT engage and click around on a website they don’t trust. If your website has even the faint smell of frustration and they’re not desperate enough to stay, it will result in an automatic reflex to either click the back button, or close the entire browser window entirely.

Such “frustrating elements” and nuisances all have one thing in common which is their ability to compromise a motorist’s sense of comfort, which can result in frustration, anger, and at times… even emotional exhaustion. According to Steve Krug, one of the leading leading experts in web-based usability, “For websites, we tend to assume that users will scan the page, consider all of the available options, and choose the best one. In reality, though, most of the time we don’t choose the best option—we choose the first reasonable option, a strategy known as satisficing.” This is to say that as soon as we find, or related element, that seems like it might lead to what we’re looking for, there’s a very good chance that we’ll click on it. Much of what we see on the web today, though a vast improvement from years past, continues to get in the way of our user’s ability to “satisfice.”

Building Engagement
For AutoVitals, the path to engagement has been one of research, data analysis, and working with real-life motorists to craft websites built on trust, anticipation, and solving problems to achieve goals. If you’ve ever asked yourself the question, “What makes someone book an appointment on my website?” You should know that there are many individuals within our organization dedicated to crafting a solution based on design principles, data, and industry trends.

An Example: Silver Lake Auto Center
For every new theme that is built, our in-house Web Presence Experts (myself included), study the tenancies and habits that users find comforting in their path to engagement. For instance, in the case of Silver Lake Auto Center with the implementation of our latest design, we wanted to improve 3 specific dynamics of the trust-building experience:

  1. Directly pairing reviews (and their respective credibility) with the shop’s brand identity (logo)
  2. Utilizing implied design elements lead to the user to vital contact information for increased engagement and conversions
  3. Having persistent navigation so the user can navigate with ease no matter how long the page length may be.

So what? And why do these matter?
By directly pairing a review count with stars, we were able to directly utilize two decision-making mechanisms. The first of which is the brain’s ability to identify “iconic” symbols with degrees of quality (the stars). The higher the star rating, the better the organization must be. The second of which is “review quantity”, which positively re-enforces the data-driven areas of the brain to confirm our initial observation. Even if the eye just briefly scans over this area, it passively leaves a lasting impression of both trust and credibility.
Likewise, the vector shapes in the header, though subtle as they are, form an “implied line or direction” beginning with the logo (paired with stars and review count) and horizontally sweeping from left to right, in the same manner as we read. This results in leading the motorist directly to the contact information and more specifically, the phone number. Much like the story of Hansel and Gretel, graphic designs like to leave visual breadcrumbs to assist their users navigate through a website to help them find what they’re looking for, without making it seem “too obvious or pushy”.
Last, but not least, is our new and improved navigation bar, which “sticks” to the top of the browser as you scroll down the page. This is highly important in the age of modern web design when pages are increasingly becoming longer to house more complex sets of information. Motorists very much appreciate when you take into consideration the amount of effort they expend when clicking around a page and introducing elements that make it easier. Going back to our “mall analogy”, it’s the equivalent of someone given you a guided GPS to navigate your way around the mall versus a stand-alone map display that you’ll eventually walk away from and hope you remember where you’re going.

Why our websites reflect goals
Our website designs are not crafted on the notion of, “I designed it this way because I like it”. Instead, our designs are crafted with the specific purpose and intent of achieving goals. If our goal is to develop a sense of trust whereby the motorist is to feel comfortable clicking around a website–it’s in our best interest to architect an experience that allows them to find the information they’re looking for, so they can make an educated decision in order to pick up the phone and and give you a call.

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