A newsletter on audience research and development for cultural leaders. One reader calls it, "sometimes funny"

(Reading time: 2m, 47s)

Good morning.

Please, sit down. Close the door behind you.

It's come to my attention that last Friday’s letter included a particularly bad typo.

I’m not saying you did anything wrong by reading that typo — of course not. But when these things happen, they hurt you, they hurt me — they hurt all of us.

A typo that undermines the meaning of what we are trying to communicate can wind up replaying in your mind for days — over and over and over.

That’s not good for anyone.

I know it’s been bothering you, too. So, here is the corrected version of Friday’s letter.

Can we put this behind us?

Thank you.

Now, back to work. You can close the door behind you on your way out.

A ridiculously simple design element that will help your visitors complete core tasks online.

Over the past few months, I’ve watched dozens of user tests of museum websites — nearly eight hours of people visiting museum sites and trying to find information and complete core tasks.

Let’s talk about one problem that comes up over and over again, and one thing you can do today to reduce the frustration your website visitors are likely experiencing day in and day out.

Are you ready?

Here it is:

Audit your web pages for dead ends.

Let me show you what I mean.

Find any page on your organization’s website that is meant to make someone want to visit your organization, become a member, or take some kind of action — program pages and event pages are prime suspects.

I bet the page looks like this:

The missing call to action

The missing call to action

The visitor moves through that page like this:

  1. Locates where they are by glancing at things like the page title and header.
  2. Reads about the offering.
  3. Decides they want to participate or purchase.
  4. Looks for some way they can actually take the next step at the bottom of the page.
  5. Keeps looking …
  6. Gets frustrated.
  7. Scrolls back up and starts fishing around in the navigation, trying to find where to enroll or purchase tickets. (At least you hope they do.)

I see this behavior all the time in tests of nonprofit websites.

Some people are so confused by the fact that they can’t take the next logical step after reading all about the program or event, they’ll start clicking on anything that resembles a link — they’ll download the ICS file to add the event to the calendar, thinking that will take them to the page where they can buy.

Think about that.

This means that there are thousands of people every day going through these organizations’ websites, reading up on all the wonderful programs they have, and right when the visitor says, “Shut up and take my money”, the organization says, “Well, you’re on your own. Figure it out yourself.”

Imagine visiting Fandango, clicking through to a particular movie, watching the trailer, and then there were no links on the page to — buy. movie. tickets.

So, here’s a better pattern to follow:

Include a call to action.

Now, the user’s behavior looks like this:

  1. Locates where they are by glancing at things like the page title and header.
  2. Reads about the offering.
  3. Decides they want to participate or purchase.
  4. Clicks a link or button that leads them to the place where they can do the thing.

Even if the event or program is free with admission, you can include a link to the admissions info page. That’s the next logical step.

I know what you’re thinking.

“The admissions info is right there in the navigation.”

Your visitors — at least some of them — do not care.

Imagine someone at an e-commerce company saying, “We don’t need to provide information about shipping and returns on each product page. There’s a link in the navigation.”

The idea that people will figure it out for themselves is the kind of assumption that would never survive in a business context.

Why should it be any different for a museum or any other nonprofit?

Thanks for reading,


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