When I think of Apple Computers, I think of really pretty toys for people who insist on being different. For years it was the print publishing industry that worshipped Steve Jobs and anything his company Apple released. Die hard Apple fans have always had a bit of a chip on their shoulders. But Apple does one thing better than anybody else – and they look good doing it!
Apple has style, its website and print material always shows the ‘cool’ factor and you get a sense of what their market is all about. There a number of things we can learn from Apple Computers. More importantly Apple’s excellent IPod Handheld Music Player.
The IPod is a revelation – a tiny music player that has no moveable parts, works like a charm and stores 1000’s of music tracks that can be played through its earphones, wirelessly on your stereo or in your car. And the IPod just looks so damn cool. But the greatest feature is its ease of use.
The IPod is not the best player out there, it does not play all types of music and has some pretty lame limitations on what you can play and where. The best player on the market is the Creative Zen Touch, plays music, has a huge hard drive, better battery life, plays a variety of music files…..but, it is not as cool.
So why is it that the Apple IPod has over 60% of the market? Two things:
One – It is cool, it looks great, it feels fantastic and people get jealous.
Two – It is so simple to use, I have even seen Grandma’s using them. It is the simplicity of how it all works that makes it a clear winner.
What can we learn from this:
Your website can be cool – it can look great, but it must be easy to use, it must give the users the information they want in a practical manner. Never try to be too cool, never try to make your website a learning curve for its visitors.
Your Menu – Navigation
This is where so many agents websites fall down. They try to be different by creating a site a new user has to learn. In my experience you have got 15 seconds once your page loads to win a new visitor over. If they are confused, if they do not understand what to do you will lose them. These people may also one day be your vendors.
A smart menu is something a user will be comfortable with. Use terms they understand – ‘For Sale’ or ‘For Lease’ are givens. You may also include ‘call to actions’ such as ‘click here to…’ do this that or the other. Never use Macromedia Flash in your navigation unless you have a backup menu for users who do not have this installed.
Lay Out your pages nice and neatly, displaying groups of information cleanly and efficiently. Sarah Lorden Real Estate do this nicely. They do not overwhelm the user with information but cleanly display the property details. Too many agents just throw too much information at users of their site, confusing them.
You too can be cool
Be cool by all means but place functionality ahead of style in all situations. Website designers (I have worked with many) generally are functional poor, they just don’t understand user requirements as well as they should and believe me the do not like any criticism although they are great at handing it out.
The best way to find out how good your site is – is to get a focus group together and sit behind them whilst they navigate your site, every question they throw at you – think of a way your website’s functionality could be improved to stop this question being asked again.
Sites with Style + Functionality
Let these companies pend millions on research and steal their style!
Apple draws its strength by incorporing style and simplicity in everything it does, It is not the best computer and software company on the planet, but it does not need to be. What it does – it does well. Get a website that places your brand in the elite category, but go for simplicity and functionality.