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Designing the Moment, Five Tips in Five Days, Part 2

By  Jun 10, 2008

Topics: Web Design & Development

Once you’ve done your best to make sure visitors understand what your application is about, it’s time to let them know how hard it will be to use it.

Rather, how easy it will be to use it.

In other words, the next thing to consider as part of your signup framework is how you’ll illustrate to potential customers the things they’ll need to learn about and do to be successful with the application and reap its benefits.

Let’s look at this in context of the invoicing application, Blinksale.

On Blinksale’s  homepage, we find 6 squares, each of which reveals a benefit-slash-feature of the application, and each of which informs would-be customers what kinds of things they can do there, what they’ll need to learn, and a decent guess as to what kind of investment they’ll need to make to get going.

In that crucial moment when a Blinksale visitor is deciding whether or not to become a customer, each one of these squares can help turn the hesitant into the self-assured, the skeptical into the confident.

In other words, people need to know what they’re getting into.

Make it look easy

The value proposition statement we talked about in Part 1 of this series simply communicates the purpose of the site or application. This second element — the investment breakdown — provides more specific information, such as what features exist and how they can be used.

Now, I like to call this the “investment breakdown” because while all it really does is communicate the benefits and features of an application, what it ultimately communicates is how hard it’s going to be to use. It tells a visitor how much of an investment she’ll need to make to be successful with the app.

If it looks like work, the investment is going to feel big and unappealing. If it looks like a cakewalk, the investment is going to feel small and painless.

Of course, this isn’t just an investment breakdown. Beyond the value proposition, it’s also a secondary way to communicate exactly what the application is meant to do so that the visitor can understand it in a bit more depth while deciding whether or not to sign up.

“The easiest way to send invoices online”—Blinksale’s value proposition—tells visitors quite a bit about the site’s purpose, but the 6 squares that comprise the investment breakdown get into the particulars. Here, users learn they can choose an invoice template, send invoices by email, import client contact information from Basecamp, tag their invoices, and more.

That’s a ton of information for 6 little squares!

And if there’s more to know than what you can stick into a small area on the homepage, you can also link off to a Learn More page featuring a screencast or screenshot tour of the application, with more information about each feature.

Another important element in the investment breakdown is a quick snippet about how long it will take to sign up and get going.

For Blinksale, this is addressed through the simple statement, “Start sending invoices in about 5 minutes!”

This tells potential customers that even if they ultimately decide not to use the application, they will have only wasted about 5 minutes figuring it out. Now, even 5 minutes can be a long time, but it sounds like a small investment, and many visitors will feel more comfortable about diving in when they know up front how much time it will take to get moving.

So what’s next on the list? Find out tomorrow in Part 3!

This is Part 2 of a five-day blog series focused on tips based on Robert Hoekman Jr.’s book, Designing the Moment. In this series, Robert discusses ways to get new users over the crucial hurdle of signing up. Click here to see Part 1, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.