Have you ever considered how a user views your website? Have you ever thought of what they think and feel as they navigate their way through? Did you realise that the design, layout and requirements of your website may actually force a user off your site and even cut short their buying cycle?

Stating the obvious, the highest chance of losing all goodwill before a user even gives your site a chance is having a web design which looks amateurish, disorganised or unprofessional.

Do not ask for more than you need; Many users are very sceptical at what they view as requests for information that simply are not necessary. If they see a telephone number and mailing address as required fields when they are simply signing up for a newsletter , they are likely to question just what these are needed for and possibly not sign up for the newsletter. Ideally you want a simple and easy, painless process simply asking for a name and email address, you don’t need anymore and the customer would hesitate to give you more – so don’t ask.

An increased trend has emerged where ecommerce websites require all customers to create an account before they buy, done correctly it is appreciated by the user as it will save them time if they come back as a repeat customer, but done incorrectly it could end the buying cycle prematurely. One website we came across asked for 9 required fields to be filled in before you could continue payment, this is actually quite a daunting task and may put people off buying. They could have simply asked for a username and password, then gathered the necessary information when the customer fills in the billing address form. A unique alternative to this, which I have used on another ecommerce site is ‘Check out as guest’ which did not require me to set up an account at all, it is always nice to have this option – and you can still collect the user’s details and ask them if they want to join your mailing list when they are checking out.

If you really want to force a user to create an account, try and ensure it causes them as little inconvenience as possible. A major error some websites make is forcing the user to leave the check out page, it should be possible to create an account from the checkout page or at the very least provide a link which opens a separate window or tab.

It is of vital importance that an ecommerce website does not diminish goodwill as this can cost them a sale and possibly that customer forever. Ecommerce sites need to provide a pleasant buying experience. When a customer decides to add something to their basket, it should appear immediately, without the page needing to be refreshed. If the website sends the user to view their basket to view the item, they must make sure the user can get back to the previous page straight away, without having to start their search from scratch. Some websites which send the customer to the basket when an item is added have a ‘Continue shopping option’ which takes them back to where they were before they added the item.

A sure fire way of diminishing a user’s goodwill towards a website is placing obstacles in their way. Do not make them wait for a long winded flash introduction to finish or wade through endless pages of promotional photographs, doing so tells the user straight away that you do not appreciate that they may not have the time for this.

Do not BS the customer, customers are very suspicious of empty compliments such as – Your call is important to us and Thank you for visiting our site – they realise these are generic messages to all users and makes them believe you think they are a soft touch.

One of the most commonly clicked pages, especially for local businesses, is the contact us page. Users want to see where the business is and possibly a phone number so they can give you a call. However, there is nothing more frustrating than clicking through to this page and not finding the information you want. Some websites simply have a form for the customer to fill in so they can get back to you, this is a guaranteed way of making someone leave your website. The contact us page should have the full business address, telephone number, fax number, mobile number if you wish and email address (in a hyperlink), otherwise you risk alienating the customer.

Do not punish users for not doing things your way. A lot of websites with payment gateways force users to enter their credit / debit card numbers without spaces – even though it is easier to check the numbers with spaces. Forcing users to enter details the way you want can diminish their goodwill towards the site, and if they are punished for not doing it your way, such as having to start all over again, they may just leave the website altogether. Also, if you are getting a user to set up an account, don’t insist they create a password the way you tell them. Yes, you may want them to increase their security by having a mixture of letters and numbers, but they may have a password they use for all accounts which doesn’t include numbers, why should they change THEIR password for you?

More and more websites are using CAPTCHA, this is a challenge response test which is used to prevent automated spam. Some users do not mind having to pass this test, but some find it tedious, especially if the CAPTCHA is almost impossible to decipher. If a user cannot guess it correctly, they are unlikely to hang around and try again.

What increases a user’s goodwill towards a website?

It is of vital importance that your website instantly gives a good impression, the user must see – what the website has to offer them and quickly, if the website does not tick this box you risk a bounce. What is the definition of a bounce? A bounce is a user who comes onto your website and leaves within five seconds, without visiting another page. Your telephone number should be instantly visible, on the top right hand side in case a user wishes to call you straight away.

An easy way of increasing goodwill is telling the customers what they want to know. Do not hide the information away as this only frustrates the user. Be upfront with the customer on things such as stock levels, reorder times, delivery charges and dispatch times, if the user cannot find these conveniently they may view the business with some suspicion and may leave the website without ever finding out.

As much as possible, try to ensure that the user is never more than a couple of clicks away from the homepage – ideally only one click. If a user navigates through a few pages and finds it is a dead end in regards to what they are looking for they should be able to start again quickly and not be forever hitting the back button.

A lot of users like to see a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) section. This can address their concerns or questions about the website, products or services and saves them writing an email and awaiting a response. However, these questions should be written to address real concerns, not questions you would want people to ask you. If possible, try to keep these questions up to date, a weekly top five would be perfect, meaning the majority of users can find their question fast, the top five might include delivery rates, dispatch times or last order dates for holidays such as Christmas.

An easy way of increasing goodwill is creature comforts, such as printer friendly pages. All websites can use CSS to optimise them for printing. This may seem like a small thing, but some people like to print information for future reference, and it should be done with one click. If you do not have printer friendly pages, the user would have to open a Word document, copy and paste the text into it and then print it – a process which less technical users may be unable to do.

Apologise, if there is something missing from your website, under construction or you simply do not have the resources, tell the user, let them know you realise the inconvenience you are causing them. Simply have a blank page or a generic page not found will confuse the user, even making them think there are problems with your website.

At all times when you are dealing with a user or customer, try and save them as much time as possible. A quick example – instead of giving them a tracking number in a confirmation email, send them the link so they can instantly view the progress of their order. Also, sometimes it is possible that a user will accidentally click a page they didn’t want to view, do not punish them for this, make sure it is quick and simple for them to get back on track.

It is essential to understand the concept of a user’s goodwill when they use a website if you want to increase the chances that a qualified lead turns into a paying customer. Some website unknowingly destroy the goodwill of their customers before they have even got to the product they want to buy, depending on how much of the customers’ goodwill you destroy they may not come back to your website for a couple of months, or they may never come back.

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