What are your users looking for?

I don’t know about you, but I find it frustrating when Google returns a site in the search engine results which looks promising in relation to what I’m searching for – only to find when I get there that it’s not at all what I was looking for. Grrr!

Obviously, despite the amazing technological feat it has attained, Google is not perfect – and never will be. But site owners can help it on its way – and gain the trust of users at the same time.

Consider what it is your users are looking for. I’m not talking in-depth scientific research here –more just employing some common sense for half an hour. Once you’ve worked out what your users are looking for, you have to supply that need – and let Google know, through your site meta data, headings, etc – what it is that’s on your site.

Example: A Local Primary School

A while back, I built a website for a local primary school (www.dry-sandford.oxon.sch.uk). Rather than simply putting a fresh look over the old website, we sat down & thought what people would actually be looking for, and what people would find useful.

Here are a few examples of what we came up with:

  • Existing parents – likely to be looking for latest news on school closures, club updates, when school photos are going to be taken, the list goes on… So throughout the website, we have a ‘Status board’ which the school secretary regularly updates – so parents can immediately see latest news
  • Existing parents again – finding a school dinner money order form might be useful if the one in Ben’s bag got a bit worse for wear while said bag was used for a football goal after school. So we have a School Office area – where forms, newsletters, etc are all uploaded & accessible to parents for download & printing.
  • Prospective parents – the obvious one is comprehensive details of the school, its ethos, structure and more. But we felt it important that prospective parents get a ‘feel’ for the school – so we’ve used a lot of images and also got children involved in creating audio clips – so their voice is heard on the site too.

Are you at odds with your users?

Bear in mind though – sometimes what your users are looking for, and what you want to give them, might be two different things. Maybe they’re just looking for information, whereas you are looking to sell.

In many cases, a hard sell to someone who is just looking for information, will fall flat on its face. The trick is to start gaining that person’s trust, proving your expertise in the field, supplying a certain amount of information – so that you then start to earn the right to pitch to that user – usually at a later date.

Consider how you can create incentives which will encourage the user to come back to your site, to stay in touch. Think about how you could get users to register their email address on your site, so you then have a means to keep in touch. The golden rule here is to remember that users are NOT stupid – and that’s why it’s important you gain people’s trust, provide something of value – to avoid them feeling like they’re been used, or conned into some marketing programme.

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