“How do we make users return to our website?”. I always hear clients asking this question at kick off meetings. Its the million dollar question. I used to think hard about how to solve this problem and try to invent some new creative solutions to satisfy my client’s thirst for retuning users.
I used to pitch designing an “engaging website” that contains animations and interactivity to only find these sizzling sites fade over time to a lame and annoying experiences that drive users away. Then the web took on a new phase that we called Web 2.0, where users drove content and the social aspects of our interactions grew to new levels. That is when I started pitching social interactions on client’s websites, such as the ability to let users comment and rate things. I thought that was the ultimate answer to the returning users problem. Build a community around the client’s business and users will flock back again and again.
However, with all these different solutions that I helped pitch, I never witnessed a revolutionary spike in the amount of returning users for those clients. Why is that?
The reality is users don’t really want to revisit your website unless they need something from you that is essential to maintaining their everyday workflow. What do I mean by that you may ask. Well, users are called “users” for a reason… they need to “use” something to stay engaged. People need tools to help them make their lives easier, not some cool animation to look at or a rating from people they don’t know on things they don’t care about.
Think about it, what are the most visited websites on the Internet today? Google, Facebook, Amazon, YouTube. Google is naturally the most visited website in the world because it provides the most important tool of all “Search” in addition to all the other useful Google products.
Facebook is so popular because it provides users with the capability to keep track of the important individuals in their lives and help them stay connected by giving them the “tools” to share the important things that are happening in their lives.
If your site is basically an information portal about your organization, then chances are you won’t really get that many returning users wether you like it or not. The solution is to give users something a lot more meaningful and useful to use. if you really don’t have that to offer, then you should just provide the best experience on your website and serve users to the best of your ability and leave that great impression so that one day they might need you for some reason again or they would recommend you to a friend because your website was so great and easy to use.