It is no accident that the people who visit your site are called
"Web surfers". They have the same short attention span as TV
"channel surfers". The average visitor to a Web site looks at only
three or four pages before going somewhere else. Visitors will
leave at the slightest obstacle.
So if you want people to visit and order from your site,
don't put any obstacles in their way. Whatever you do,
don't force visitors to register.
You have to create yourself an account, with a user id and
password, before you can even order from Wal-Mart.
Do they expect online shoppers to
remember a userid and password for every online store they visit?
Most major sites have learned not to require registration.
They have also learned
not to use frames. Frames are a lot more gratifying to the site
designer than the visitor. To visitors, frames are
Another big disadvantage of frames: many search
engines don't index
sites that use frames. So using frames will decrease the
amount of traffic you get from search engines.
None of the most heavily visited sites use frames. In fact, the
more important the site, the simpler the design. Look at what is
probably the most important site on the Web, Yahoo! There are no bells and
whistles to distract you. The design of the site is so simple that
you get it at a glance.
Most of your visitors will not start at your front page. Most of
your hits will come from search engines,
and when someone searches for a phrase in a search engine, they
are sent directly to the page in your site that contains that
phrase. So most of your visitors will drop right into the middle
of your site, like paratroopers. The design of your site has to
tell them immediately where they are, and what their choices are.
Most major sites solve this problem by putting a row of buttons at
the top or down the side of each page. Somewhere, usually at the
top of the page, they include a small
version of their logo. The logo serves two purposes: it brands
the site, and it serves as a link back to the homepage. For example,
look at these interior pages from CDNOW
and the NASA
store. They all use this approach. So does Yahoo!. It
has become the accepted convention for the way a site should be
Make sure you put these links at the top of the page. You
don't want new arrivals to have to scroll down to the bottom of
the page just to find out where they've landed.
Many of the people who arrive at your site will be searching for
a specific product. We find that almost half the people who place
orders were searching for that particular product. You have to
pay special attention to these visitors, because they are the ones
who actually spend money. Every online store should be searchable,
and there should be a search
button on the home page, if not on every page. Every store
with less than 2000 pages should also have an alphabetical index.
(All Yahoo! stores automatically have both.)
Text copyright © 1999 Paul Graham. Feel free to reproduce any of this text on your own Web site, so long as you reproduce it verbatim, and include this message. For any other use, please contact the author. Yahoo! and Yahoo! Store are trademarks of Yahoo! Inc. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.