Your visitors are the reason that your web site exists. Without visitors, what's the point of having the site in the first place? The previous articles have shown you how to get visitors to your site. This article gives you some hints about how to keep them there.
The front page of your site is often the most important for visitors who go directly to your site. It is also the place where your visitors will go to search for additional information if they enter through a search engine.
Exploiting the Front Page
The most important thing for the front page is speed. Visitors won't wait longer than 10 seconds for a page to load before hitting "back" or "stop". Ideally, the whole page should load within 10 seconds - 5 seconds is even better. Make sure that your graphics are optimised and you only say as much as you need to.
Once your page has loaded you need to use the front page to draw attention to the key areas of your site. Our front page includes descriptions of the most recent In Perspective, Net Tips and News articles - the three most dynamic sections of the site. This means that anyone going to the front page can see, at a glance, if any of them have changed.
You need to ensure that your visitors can find what they want quickly. A search facility on the front page and links to your top sections allow them to do this (Atomz.com provide an excellent free search engine).
With lots of links on a page it can be hard to determine which pages go to other sites, which stay on your site and which let you download things. It is remarkably simple to avoid this - adding icons to any links which aren't "normal" (ie those which don't go to other pages on your site) avoids the confusion and makes your visitors feel much happier.
Note: Identifying links to other sites is especially important - if a link suddenly leaves your site the user can either assume it is still your site (leaving you open to a law suit for "passing off" their content) or just not come back.
The use of other visual cues can also make finding information easier. For example, a light-bulb icon is used throught this site to indicate where extra information is available.
Some people still like paper, so it's likely that visitors will want to print your pages. Try and make your pages printer-friendly, or provide a printer-friendly or text-only version of your site. By "printer-friendly", I mean not using large colour graphics or wide pages which will not print correctly on portrait A4 (or the US letter size). This site uses the latter approach - if you wanted to print this article, the navigation bars are pointless and would just waste ink. To get around this, you can simply press the "View a printer-friendly version" link and print that page.