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How To Design A Website For The Tunnel Reader

by Gerry McGovern
Author, New Thinking

People may initially scan read on the Web; their eyes moving quickly across a page. However, when they find the keywords they are interested in, they tend to tunnel read. What this means is that they focus on a specific set of content. They basically don't see anything else on your website.

Tunnel readers are absolutely impatient. They are on a mission. They have an internal map that they want to follow. They have a specific set of things they want to do on your website. They want to do them as quickly and simply as possible.

Tunnel readers don't like surprises. Anything that is not directly related to their needs they see as a nuisance. If you quickly meet the needs of the tunnel reader, they are likely to become loyal, repeat visitors.

What is the most important group of people that come to your website? This is not an easy question to answer. In fact, it involves one of the most difficult decisions you will have to make. The reason is that tunnel readers like websites that speak only to them and nobody else.

The more readers you try to reach, the more likely you are to annoy and confuse the tunnel reader.

The Web has all this promise. People get excited by the idea that it's worldwide. It looks like a wonderful opportunity to be able to reach so many different people. Web managers can get carried away. It's so easy to lose focus. The result is often a half-baked website that reaches many but doesn't really satisfy anybody.

The classic 80:20 rule applies on the Web. Twenty percent of your readers will help you achieve 80 percent of your objectives. The single most important job you can do is identify who these twenty percent are. Because these are your tunnel readers.

Don't fall into the trap of wanting it all. The other eighty percent of readers will eat up your valuable resources, for increasingly diminishing returns. They will also eat up the real-estate on your webpages. Publishing lots of content for this eighty percent is very likely to turn your twenty percent tunnel readers off.

Make the difficult decision. Choose no more than three-a maximum of five-tunnel readers. The next step is to find out exactly what they want to do on your website and make sure that is exactly what they can do. If you want to win over the tunnel reader you must first satisfy their core needs. So, give them what they want.

The eBay website was always very straightforward. It has become simpler and simpler over the last year. It moved from a homepage with lots of links to an almost childlike design with three blindingly obvious options: Find, Buy, Pay.

As speed increases, the mind simplifies. People move quickly around websites. They have tunnel vision. You may think something is easy to find on your homepage. Remember, you designed the page. You are probably the worst possible judge of whether something is easy to find or not.

Designing a great website is about making hard choices. The foundations for success are laid by knowing who your most important reader is and what exactly it is they want to do. � Gerry McGovern, New Thinking 2004. All rights reserved.

Gerry McGovern is the author of New Thinking, a weekly column which has received numerous accolades and a book, THE CARING ECONOMY

The Caring Economy
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The Caring Economy, by Gerry McGovern, is published by Blackhall Publishing of 26 Eustace Street, Dublin 2, Ireland. ISBN 1-901657-61-2 Price _27.50 or US$35.95
Email: [email protected]

It is also available in the United States from Irish Books & Media, 1433 East Franklin Avenue, MN, USA 55404-2135. Call toll-free: 1-800-229-3505.

Email Gerry McGovern at [email protected]
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