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How to Build a Website That Will Get Visitors to Stay

If a website exists but no one sees it, does it really exist? Maybe, but you probably do want people to see your site.  While you might get a lot of visitors, do you know if people like what they see?  Do they visit once and leave right away, or are they instant loyal followers who could spend hours browsing your glorious website? If you’d like to gain more of the latter, take a look at your site and see if it follows these simple guidelines.

Don’t overwhelm your visitors

When you go to a website, you want something that is functional, but you also want to like what you see.  A website can give you all the information and great content in the world, but if it’s so busy that your visitors can’t sort out what they want to look at, they’ll probably just leave (and never come back).  Fix this by making sure you have some white space, a simple layout, and organized sidebars and tabs.

Waste no time (or space)

Though you’re obviously using a new media type of communication to reach your audience, some of the old-style journalistic principles, such as the inverted pyramid, still apply.  The inverted pyramid basically states that you should put your most important information at the top of your story, and the less important information toward the bottom.  This tactic definitely applies to websites, because visitors only see the top portion of your page when they make their first visit.  So you should definitely have the very important information about your site toward the top of your page.  If visitors click a link and can’t tell what your site is about within the first few seconds, they’re not going to search around for it.  Make sure you have an “about” section or link somewhere, or at least explain what your site is in a simple, cohesive way that fits in with your design.

Grab their attention

Again, you should have your most and relevant content toward the top of your page, but sometimes you have a whole lot of content, some of which might be interesting to different types of people.  Luckily, this is what links are for.  If you have a blog style site, you can have a “recent posts” or “most read posts” section that will share some of your headlines with your visitors, without them having to scroll through pages of your content.

Connect with them

You want them to stay during their first visit, but you also want them to come back again.  Include links to your rss feeds, twitter and facebook pages, stumbleupon, and any other places where they can connect with you.  Social media icons are also very easily recognizable, and may help to catch the eye of visitors looking for inspiration or resources similar to what is offered on your site.

Make sure they can read what you have to say

This is especially relevant if you have a text-heavy site.  Some designers and artsy sites might just want their portfolio to do the talking, but at some point you will probably need to use words to express what you’d like to say to people.  Small text might look good, but it doesn’t do any good if people can’t read it.  The internet-using population is aging, and not everyone can read your 8pt trendy font directly under your photos. A good rule of thumb is to use at least 12 pt in a fairly simple typeface for your main text.  Also, don’t justify your main text, choose a color that’s dark enough to be eye-catching, and make sure your links stand out, but aren’t too light to be seen.

Each website is different, but pretty much everyone wants their content to be seen.  If everyone who visits your site leaves right away, your content, no matter how intriguing, is not reaching anyone. Do you have any tips you think should be added to this list? If so, feel free to share them in the comments.

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