Visitors are humans, just like you and me. In fact the majority of time we spend on the web is as visitors on other websites and not as web developers, designers, analysts or usability specialists.
Visitors are not stupid
No, they just have better things to do than to figure out how certain websites work. Steve Krug truly believes that the secret to web usability is the following law: Don’t make me think. It’s like when going to a restaurant you have to figure out on how to sit at a table without chairs. You won’t. You’ll just move on to the next restaurant (unless you are very hungry :) ).
Think of how many times you heard managers saying that their website visitors are stupid or not very smart. Now go tell them a little secret: their website visitors are unhappy, not stupid. It can be because they can’t find what they are looking for, the website reacts in ways that they don’t expect or that it takes a lot of effort to get to the desired content.
Happy, not smart
Happy visitors are more likely to become customers. So yes, think of your visitors in terms of how happy are they with your website, not how smart to get around. Listen to them, find out what makes them happy and go for it. Just like Emer Kirrane says it, visitors stopped being sheep long time ago.
For many companies the only method of making customers happy is by using aggressive marketing. Kevin Hillstrom has a great blogpost on how a company lost probably more than 30000$ on Cyber Monday just because they did not look in what makes their customers happy but rather treated their potential customers just like numbers.
I am sure it happened to many companies, not just them. All they did was to base their marketing strategy for Cyber Monday on what everybody else is doing (probably also based on all the tweetadvices) offering huge discounts without even asking themselves if they would of gotten the same result or even better with a lesser discount. It turned out their competition did care and did much better. You owe it to yourself to at least a/b test ideas and figure out what would it take to make your visitors happy.
Every visitor has a different reason for which it engages with your website and we don’t know most of the reasons.
The ones of you who decide to comment on this article might do it cause you just got an idea for another article, because you might want to challenge me with a question or maybe just because you’d like to engage in a discussion with other users who have left a comment. No matter how much I try to guess, I’ll only get a very small percentage of all the reasons, and some reasons I’ll even get wrong.
The idea though, is not to guess what is the reason for which each visitor engages with a certain website. The point is to make sure everybody has a chance to get what they wanted in the first place. How to do that? Use the analytics data to discover the places where people get stuck. Use voice of customers tools to listen the interest of your visitors and customers. Compare your strategy with the what your competition is up to. Then, act on it.