Since I abandoned ship in the sinking newspaper industry, I’ve often wondered how useful my educational training and professional experience as a journalist have become. There were times when I was convinced the 6-year stretch was a waste of time and money. But as difficult as it was initially to comprehend, I’ve realized the worlds of newspapers and websites are not too far apart.

Newspapers Require Intuitive Layout and Compelling Content

At its core, successful journalism requires excellent storytelling fueled by sources who relay their experiences in respective events. It’s hard to describe the difficulty of getting some people to open up during an interview, especially when they have no desire to do so. However, you have no choice but to press on and build a solid rapport and trust with them in a matter of only minutes.

Once interviews are complete and a story is written, it is edited and handed to a team of designers who must build the look of the next day’s newspaper. Countless eye-tracking and user studies have gone into perfecting the look of modern newspaper layouts. We know that readers move through the page in an ‘S’ pattern, scan headlines, subheads, and photos before reading stories (people usually don’t move to the jump until they’ve finished reading all they’re interested in on the page).

Websites are no Different!

Instead of regurgitating the similar issues a website owner/developer/marketer faces, I encourage you to scan through the previous two paragraphs and replace newspaper references with your Internet-based job title.

Google Analytics tells us that on average 50 percent of the people who come to a website bounce without seeing a second page. We also know that for the people who remain, they will likely stay on site for 2 to 3 minutes and view 2 to 3 pages.

You have literally one page to make an impression and encourage people to remain on your site. For those visitors who stay, know that they’ve put your site on the clock and an exit is eminent. My only words of advice for this situation are you better do all you can to make sure your site quickly establishes rapport with each visitor.

How Do You Know if You’re on the Right Track?

Through testing and tuning your site. Only after testing for effectiveness, it’s essential to make design modifications and improve headlines, body copy, images, calls to action, and contact forms on your primary landing pages. Newspaper publishers have known for decades that testing and tuning their product resulted in increased user satisfaction and thus an increase in circulation–this same willingness to embrace user testing should hold true for you and your website.

Printed versions of newspapers might seem archaic in today’s digital age but I’ve learned that even though the medium is different, newspapers and websites have a lot in common. Both are vessels for brining information to the masses. Because of this, it is foolish to create a product that does not resonate with your audience. It is even more foolish to make changes because you think you know what people want. To accurately determine what your audience wants, CRO is good starting place.

For more website optimization tips, check out some of my past blogs.

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