Website Friction and the SMB

11 Feb 2010 | written by Josh Summerhays for the web site marketing strategies section(s)

Website Friction and the SMB

When it comes to their business website, too many small business owners still cling to the false notion of, “If you build it, they will come.” The idea is that having a web presence will get the job done. Put up the site, get the products on there, slap the logo on it and watch the sales roll in, right?

Once upon a time, when the concept of a business website was fresh and exciting, that may have been true. But times have changed. You can’t crank out any old website and expect customers to magically line up like the cars leading to Ray Kinsella’s remote baseball field.

If you build it, they will not always come.

Unlike those snake-charmed baseball fanatics, your potential customers won’t go miles out of their way to buy what you’re selling and they won’t put up with a website that makes the buying process uncomfortable or the least bit confusing. Customers will project the quality and user-friendliness of your website onto your business as a whole, so you have to make the process of interacting with your website clear and easy—as easy as humanly possible.

When your website becomes confusing, slow, or tedious, you will lose people in droves. This idea is commonly referred to as website friction. The noted online testing firm Marketing Experiments defines “friction” as “psychological resistance to a given elements in the sales process.”

Your task is to figure out where friction on your website is costing you sales and make changes to alleviate it. Common examples of friction are:

  • A cluttered page layout that buries important information
  • Slow load time
  • Unclear or ineffective calls to action
  • Unclear explanation of value proposition
  • Message mismatch from ad or link to landing page
  • Poor product images and/or description

This list could go on for many pages, but you get the idea.

This idea is particularly important for SMBs because most businesses in this category are competing for customers without the momentum of a big brand name. Big brands have achieved a measure of trust that can sometimes push site visitors through small points of friction because they ultimately trust the brand.

Odds are that you, as a small business, do not have that luxury with 90% of your site visitors. When things get the slightest bit inconvenient for someone navigating your website, most visitors will leave and take their wallets with them. You haven’t achieved the trust of a big brand and must do so through the customer’s experience with your website.

If your business will realize its potential, you must commit to analyzing your website traffic and adjusting your website accordingly. Only then will your pay-per-click, SEO, email and other traffic generation efforts produce the results you hope for.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  • Shep |   Feb 11th, 2010 at 2:49 pm

    Thanks for saying it how it is, Josh!

  • RMiller |   Feb 19th, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    Well said, Josh! There’s a common misconception that a good SMB website has to cost a lot and is out of reach, or on the other end of the spectrum, that simply by having a site will mean added profit. Your pointers are beneficial to any SMB owner that is beginning the process of establishing a web presence, as well as those who already have their sites up and running. The simple errors you listed are easily avoidable and have the potential to be the deciding factor between sticking with it and making your website useful, or abandoning ship. Great post & great reminders-

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