Visitor Friction Rubix

Visitor friction: Why your website should be (a little) difficult to use

8 min read
Andrew McDermott

What's worse than no website traffic? The wrong traffic — and that’s why we’re going to talk about visitor friction. The wrong traffic is visitors who create headaches for your business. If you let them, these visitors will ruin your business. It's tough to resist bad visitors; it seems like they're a gift, at least, at first. Your website gets flooded with traffic, and you hope to begin generating leads and sales.

What's wrong with traffic, leads and sales?

Consider visitor friction because your website visitors are unfiltered. When you market your business well, you're eventually flooded with all kinds of visitors. They aren't always the visitors you want. Typically, your pool of website visitors consists of:

  • Bots access your site for a specific purpose. It could be searchbot, crawling your site to update their index, or site scrapers automatically stealing your content.
  • Predators. These criminals search for website vulnerabilities, website weaknesses they can exploit. They use these weaknesses to steal your customer's data, access financial data, or gain unauthorized access to your site.
  • Competitors. Your competitors might be looking for ideas to copy (steal), searching for a competitive advantage against you or simply monitoring your business.
  • Unfits cover a broad category of visitors including: salespeople who want to sell you something; media, PR reps and/or journalists doing research on your business; and investors and influencers looking for information.
  • Scammers are undesirable people looking for a way to abuse, manipulate or steal from you. These pretenders act like customers but they're not. They're looking for a way to a) maximize what they take from you and b) minimize what they give to you — plain and simple.
  • Customers. The website visitors you actually want, real people who are willing and able to pay for your product or service.

These groups are typically lumped in together. They're usually treated as one, uniform group, which they're obviously not.

You see the problem, right?

This situation is even more complicated when you consider that, as a group, customers themselves aren't created equal. Want to increase your website conversion rate? You'll need to divide your website visitors into groups.

  • Customers in evaluation mode.
  • Comparison shoppers looking to be convinced.
  • Price shoppers, bargain hunters, and hagglers.
  • Purchase-ready customers.

You'll need to determine how you want to treat each of these customers. If your website treats each visitor the same, you're making it harder to attract the customers you actually want.

So, tell your useless visitors to go away?

That sounds like a terrible idea — and it is. There's a better way to get website visitors to do what you want. In fact, with the right strategy, they'll do what you want automatically. Visitor friction is great like that.

It feels natural to them (because it is).

There's no manipulation or arguments, no aggressive behavior required. No negative fallout from visitors. No need to worry about pushing the right customers away. Follow this strategy and you can't get it wrong; there's no way to mess this up. What strategy are we talking about here?

Encourage your website visitors to self-identify

Get your customers to identify and sort themselves. With one simple tactic, you'll be able to attract the visitors you want and discourage the ones you don't want.

You need to use visitor friction

Friction is defined as "any psychological resistance to an element in the conversion process." What does that mean in terms of visitor friction for a website?

If you're like most people, you're probably not too happy about reading content that looks like a wall of text:

Visitor Friction Wall Text

Instead of easy-to-read content that looks like this:

Visitor Friction Easy

The wall of text in my example above creates visitor friction. People aren't all that excited about poorly formatted content. So they leave, never to return.

But here's the thing...

Visitor friction sounds like it's bad for websites

Visitor friction sounds like something your website needs to avoid at all costs. And it is, if it's used in the wrong place, at the wrong time or in the wrong way. Typically, friction pushes people away. Here's the caveat though...

You need visitor friction to build a successful business.

If you're looking to build a successful, high-traffic website, visitor friction is a big part of how you do it. Remember the types of visitors I mentioned earlier? Visitor friction is how you separate the wheat from the chaff, the good from the bad.

OK, how?

Think of visitor friction like the volume dial on your radio. You...

  • Turn friction down to attract more of the website visitors you want.
  • Turn friction up to repel more of the website visitors you don't want.

Here's how it works.

You continually adjust the visitor friction elements on your site, turning things up or down as you need to for best results. You're looking to optimize your conversion/response rates.

Wait a sec.

What are visitor friction elements? These are areas where you can adjust or customize the amount of visitor friction on your site. Here are a few examples.

  • Long web forms = less response. Short web forms = more unqualified responses.
  • Visual content increases time on site.
  • About pages with a compelling backstory, company photos and timelines increase trust.
  • Landing pages that ask for an email address get more responses than pages that require more info.
  • Shopping carts that allow visitors to "checkout as guest" instead of forcing them to create an account.
  • Using space and formatting to create attractive and appealing content.
  • Using stories, psychological triggers, and problems to attract and hold reader attention.

There are hundreds of visitor friction elements like these. How are you supposed to find them all? It's actually pretty simple.

Just look for decision points.

Then, adjust the visitor friction on your website accordingly, making things easier or more difficult for your visitors, depending on your goals.

This is why your website should be difficult to use

Let's say you're running a consulting business. You're relying on your website as a lead-generation tool. The more traffic (i.e., qualified visitors) you get to your site, the more leads you'll generate. How would you use friction at an important decision point?

If you want more leads

Minimize the amount of information you ask for. You'd offer customers useful or valuable information (e.g. worksheets, checklists, downloads, etc.) in exchange for their information. You'd ask for the bare minimum from your visitors — an email address and nothing more.

This strategy is an excellent way to attract a lot of attention from qualified visitors, but you'll also attract casual browsers, tire kickers and knowledge vampires in the process. This generates a significant amount of interest up front, but requires more sorting on the backend to maximize the value you receive.

If you want better leads

Ask customers for more information. You're still offering valuable information, but you're asking for more of their personal information (e.g., full name, work email address, telephone, mailing address, etc.)

Visitor Friction Contact

Getting higher-quality leads means you increase the visitor friction on your site. This disqualifies casual browsers and the unfits I mentioned earlier. Only the most motivated customers will share their contact information.

Visitor motivation is the secret to profitability

The more motivated your qualified visitors are when they arrive on your site, the more likely they are to do what you'd like them to do (i.e., spend money).

You need your website visitors to self-identify.

Visitor friction, along with visitor friction elements, is how you do it. Whenever there's a (direct or indirect) decision point, you simply adjust the friction you need to attract the customers you want. Want to sell more products and services? Use friction to push the wrong visitors away.

Make your website harder and more difficult for the wrong people to use.

Website visitors, as we've seen, aren't created equal. Website traffic from the wrong visitors create unnecessary headaches and expense. If you let them, these visitors will ruin your business. Your decisions will be based around the wrong people.

It doesn't have to be this way.

With a little bit of traffic and the right kind of friction, you'll find a difficult-to-use website is a great way to get the traffic, leads and sales your business needs.

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