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I have a template that has content which people discover via SEO usually.

Here is an example of the template: http://www.problemio.com/problems/problem.php?problem_id=145

The problem I am experiencing is that there is currently an extremely high bounce rate: something like 90% which I have never experienced on any site as a webmaster for a number of sites.

What can I do to get people to engage with the page and make accounts and contribute?

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5 Answers

As Pratheep rightly suggests, your first issue might be that users are bouncing simply because they're expecting something else. SEO's no good if it doesn't bring users searching for the right things.

That aside, I do see a couple of genuine issues with your current design:

  • The fact you hide answers by default makes the site look empty. You should be aware that there are many 'content farms' out there that pose as Q&A sites but without any answers, all in an attempt to garner views from interested users. If your site resembles these, it won't be trusted. And users bounce from untrusted sites in droves.
  • By hiding answers by default, your site fails to exploit controversial or interesting answers. These really get people interested - even if it's just to object to another answer. Granted, you have to play carefully with this - handled improperly, arguments can create DRAMA and all-round bad feelings.
  • The site's spartan design elements make it look non-professional, and suggest it isn't backed by an established organization. That matters even when content is provided by a user, because only large organizations have the critical mass of askers and answerers for conversations to happen.
  • Users have to create accounts to answer. This is kryptonite to contribution. You're creating a barrier to entry - forcing users to turn from passive browsers into active form-fillers, remembering new passwords and possibly going through lengthy activation processes. Do you really need this? If validation is a priority, are openID and Facebook / Twitter sign-ins out of the question?
  • Your design doesn't have strong gridlines. These don't just make a site look neat - they make it look 'professional', which again makes the site look like an established service rather than a fly-by-night operation which isn't worth investing time in.
  • Participation involves writing something. That's problematic - thinking up a relevant comment at the drop of the hat is hard. Offer upvote / like buttons as well as comments (downvotes can create DRAMA, though) to let users engage without having to prepare a political essay.
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you make good points. I am struggling with design because I am not a designer, and while I am looking for a designer I have to do the design on my own. Are there examples of sites with layouts similar to mine that you would point me to that have more defined grid lines and look professional? –  Genadinik Feb 20 '12 at 22:14
    
I wouldn't recommend copying another site's gridlines wholesale - rather, make your design elements and objects fit a set of gridlines that hold true throughout your site and service. As for general inspiration on ideas for improving contribution, might I suggest sites like Quora and Yahoo Answers? They do a lot to get users engaged. –  Jimmy Breck-McKye Feb 20 '12 at 22:21
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Looking at some of the design practices here on Stack Exchange may help you.

  • The question/problem description is visible by default.
  • The solutions are visible by default. This sets the tone that this is a social interaction. What is the motivation for someone to express their solution if no one is going to see it?
  • The submission form can follow x number of answers (potentially add pagination)

I think you can raise conversion by providing value to both the person stating the problem and those who are providing answers.

...and take the advice from others regarding layout, grids, etc.

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Few quick observations :

  • Font-size inconsistency, (eg, "posted by Alex" should be given smaller size font or differentiated from the content)
  • No clear call to action button
  • Background makes it look very dull
  • The div arrangements overlap in between
  • Site Logo can be made little brighter
  • The three blue buttons placed at random order, no layout consistency

And do find out the keywords that gets to your site, People might search for some thing and land and they bounce back which most often happens cause of wrong seo.

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I can only read a few sentences of content on the page. My first goal upon arriving on a page is to look at the content.

After I expand the content, I see nothing there that is useful to me. It has a very general overview of a problem with no specific details. If I was interested in a problem, I'd be looking for content that's detailed a la Wikipedia - information that I don't already know, links to where I could find more detailed information, quotes and a bibliography from reputable sources of information, etc.

After seeing this page, I wouldn't be motivated to click through to any of the other pages. I'd assume that they'd also be generic, useless overviews.

If you want people to be motivated to engage, get some real content. Hire researchers and writers to provide something that people can't easily find on another website.

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Just to back up one of Jimmy Breck-McKye's points, check out:

http://www.subtraction.com/pics/0703/grids_are_good.pdf

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