There are endless ways to break down your target audience. Aside from the good old demographics like age, race, and gender, online marketing introduces new ways to segment your market.
One of them is based on how users navigate your site. Some will do so passively and sift through the topics and links you provide from them. Others will be more active and go straight for the search bar. In the context of web design, we call those users browsers and searchers, respectively.
Browsers are great visitors, provided that you put a lot of effort into your user experience. You can guide them through your site like a couple walking through Ikea looking for furniture for their new home.
If the majority of your users are browsers, then you should make your site navigation clear and organised.
“Your main navigation menu should list only your sites most important pages; putting too many items in the menu can look cluttered, confusing and make it harder for users to find what they want. Stick to including your product or service landing pages (but again, only the most important if you have a lot), pages with informational content such as ‘About Us’, and links to sub-sections of the site like your blog.”
The challenge is figuring out if your target audience is full of browsers. You can try to predict this based on its demographics, but you can also just throw different strategies at the wall and see what sticks. This is called testing, and it will make your website more effective over time.
If browsers are the users who walk into a supermarket and go through all the aisles one by one, then searchers are the people who head straight for a product, only to realise that they skipped a bunch of other items they need.
It’s not that there’s no order or thought process, it’s that they’re set on one thing and one thing only. In regard to your website, they couldn’t care less about the nice user experience you’ve laid out for them.
This CIO article explains how businesses can plan for searchers. It sounds similar to the quote above, except for one twist:
“Don’t make it hard for visitors to navigate your site and find what they are looking for quickly (in just a click or two). Keep navigation simple by using a horizontal menu with short descriptive labels (typically no more than seven items) across the top of each page, with one level of dropdown menus. Also, be sure to include a search box at the top of each page, either in the upper-left or upper-right corner.”
That last line is key. If your target users are searchers, then you need to include a search box at the top of your site.
Is it possible to take this feature away and force them to see your whole site? Yes, but that’s probably not going to work out the way you imagine it to. These people know what they want and more importantly, they want to find it on their own. Taking their hand and forcing the to walk through your site is just going to frustrate them.
It’s considerations like these that businesses miss when designing and planning their own sites. A website designed for searchers will leave browsers in the dust, and the opposite situation will create a world of frustration for searchers. And what do both scenarios lead to? A click right back to Google!
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