WordPress is wonderful.

Those of you who regularly read my blog will know that I love WordPress, I love the fact that it is so simple to use and that anybody can create an online brand without a bucket full of techy knowledge. And we can add whizzy plugins that look the bees knees and catapult our humble online shop or blog into the big league. With a bit of time and ingenuity and a good idea your ‘little business’ can compete with the big boys and nobody will ever guess that you do all your admin in a corner of your bedroom.

Great!

But (and I bet you knew that there would be a but), with all these wonderful plugins we can download, sliders, sign up forms, pop ups, video, moving this and that, it is very easy to lose the key messages we built the site for in the first place.

Don’t make your lovely products look like cheap tat

Don't let your website turn into a junk shop

There two toy shops on the high street where I live. Both are quite small but pack in a lot of toys. Both are an Aladdin’s cave of treasures for my children. But I only ever shop in one of them, even though I could probably get better value for my £5 children’s birthday party present at the other shop, and even though the other shop has a far wider range to offer.

The reason is simple. I find the other shop stressful. I walk in to a mess of crafts, branded toys, cheap plastic, high price books, beautifully made wooden toys and, most bizarrely, wigs. I don’t know where to look and there is no guide to direct me to make a decision. And even though it does stock some lovely toys, it all looks like tat.

So I just don’t go in. I want to be guided towards my purchase and assured that I am picking out the perfect toy to be dropped into the swag bag at the soft play party. So I always shop in the same place. All the toys are shown to be top quality and divided into sections for age, toy type and perfect presents for school birthday parties. Great – decision made in 5 minutes (and it only takes that long because I like being in the shop).

And it is exactly the same with websites. Visitors need to be guided through from the front page to the buy now or sign up button. So every part of each page needs to help them make the right decision to move through the site to find what they need. Don’t clutter your pages up and keep to your key messages.

How to use plugins to guide your visitors, not distract them

Here are a few ways that you can improve your plugin placement to help visitors find the information they need:

1. Sign up boxes are great, they capture details of visitors to your site and help build your list. Visitors to your site will be used to seeing a sign up box at the top right of your page and this is a key area that draws visitor’s attention. Use it! Create an irresistible downloadable freebie that is in tune with your key message and use your highlight colours to draw attention to it.

2. Social media plugins that stream messages and posts from Twitter and Facebook are great for building our tribe but can be a little distracting for visitors to our websites. If your business has a very active social media presence, great, but be sure to tuck these busy looking plugins out of the way of the main content of your pages. A different coloured bottom area can be a perfect place to put them so they don’t interfere with your main message.

3. Testimonials can be a valuable bonus to your website, but before you upload a plugin to constantly rotate all the fab things your customers say about your business on the front page, consider if it is clouding the purpose of your landing page. Could your site be better served with a testimonial widget placed on a sidebar next to a product or service page? Do your visitors need that reassurance of your business up front, or could good design guide them to answer their question and point them to buy with a well-placed product review. Where ever you do decide to place your testimonials, try blocking the section off with a different font (italic, bold or in quotation marks) or even a different background colour to make the information easier to scan.