Now this may sound a little strange, but the reality of any web site is that the visitor (and potential customer) has to be in control of the entire process.
If they aren’t in control, then they are going to feel like they are being rail-roaded, forced to make a decision, and have that horrible out of control feeling. We have all had it. The feeling of being not in control, when things are being dictated to us. We all know that it’s not pleasant. We hate it personally, and will avoid it.
The same concept applies to a web site.
People using a web site must have control, they must be able to direct their own actions, be allowed to make their own choices. Be allowed to leave when they want to on their terms. No trickery, no forcing them or harassing them with adverts or half truths just so they will sign up. Everything on a web site must be such that the visitor can make their own informed choices.
For example this means – no links that say they are going to one part of site, when they in fact go elsewhere. Or forms that force a person to hand over private details (so you can market to them) for information that you where going to give-away anyway.
This degree of control can also be as simple as the tone of the labels on your links and the navigation on your web site, or even just the voice of the content projects. You see people want to tell a web site what to do, not have the web site tell them what to do. We are fussy like that, we like to be in control of the interfaces that we use.
This concept of not being able to control the customer on the web, can sometimes be difficult to consider. In terms of old school marketing, the customer is there to be captured, told what they want and dictated to. Okay maybe not that simply, but still some businesses have the believe that they are in control seat with the customer along for the ride.
Sorry, the web doesn’t work that way, web site owners are not in control. The visitors are in control. It’s a simple factor.
If the visitors don’t like the over all experience they are having on your site they will leave or just never return.
Now as you know the user experience that a visitor has is more than just how pretty the site looks, or how usable it is (the usability), or how easy it is to find information (the Information architecture), or if the site meets the visitors expectations, its about the sum of all these things.
Of course you’ll never know if your visitors are having a good experience or feel that they are in control, unless you ask them.