A website, for many, is a lifeline for business owners. And for some, it’s just a placeholder to tell the world a few things about themselves, their services and hopefully get prospects into some sort of ‘sales funnel’ and start the process of closing a sale or building a long term relationship with someone and doing repeat business.
It’s not a case of one website fits all; otherwise, our problems would be solved fairly quickly.
For many, the difficulties with understanding what good web design is can be foreign because the word "website" has the concept of being a singular entity. Perhaps, using the words "online business" might help understand the context in which you need to approach your decision process.
There are a few things that every business owner can do when looking at their website -- wondering what needs to be done to improve how it works and hopefully gain some more traction with Google, and even get some calls.
My 5 top tips for improving web design are as follows:
1. Responsively responsible
A responsive website is important, particularly if your business relies on being found by mobile devices, phones, tablets etc. This is because Google (and most likely others search engines will follow suit) publicly states they will give preference to websites that are mobile friendly. A mobile website is not quite the same as a truly "responsive" site.
A responsive website is one website that caters to all different devices. A mobile site can and often is something that is customised for smaller screens with completely different layout and content specifically tailored to a mobile phone.
If your website is not naturally responsive and you are not in a position to make it this way, consider making the text a little larger. At the very least, you’ll make those people with the fancy huge screens happier.
Ideally, if you can contact the designer of the site and ask them to use ‘css’ to make the text content appear larger, then it can be done site wide, instead of per piece of content. This will help in removing the frustration of the mobile phone user when landing on your site with text written smaller than the ingredients on a jam jar and when their pinch and zoom options don’t work (and mobile usage is on the rise so needs to be addressed).
2. Be easy to contact
Look at your website from a consumer point of view and ask yourself this question: How long does it take to find my contact information? If someone wanted to contact you within a couple of minutes of reading your website, could they?
On mobile devices, having to use a form can be tricky. If you don’t have an office where people can come to, make sure people can contact you. You could put your email address online. There are some pieces of code you can use to ‘obfuscate’ or ‘scramble’ email addresses but the spam bots are pretty smart, so you might get some unwanted spam. But you can use a "throw away" email address – and that is one that you use for nothing else and when spam starts, just drop it and use another one.
Forms can be awesome, but not at the cost of people being unable to use the form or forms not being responded to. A simple phone number where people can pick up the phone and call you is still the "acceptable human option" -- showing people that you mean business.
You’d be surprised how many websites are simply void of any contact details apart from a form. Do yourself and your clients a favour and make sure that your web designer puts your full contact details on there. Even if you’re a home based business with a mobile phone, make yourself contactable if you want to do business with the online world. Better still a Google Maps location helps people identify quickly where your location is.
3. Ensure images load quickly
Ever looked at websites and found images roll down the page very, very slowly? Years ago, it was because the internet connection was very poor, but these days that’s generally not the problem. So, is loading your images straight off the camera or uploading the one you just purchased from an image stock website okay? NO, it’s not and here’s why and how to fix it.
With more mobile phones being used, most of these are on data plans. But your awesome camera takes shots that are good enough now to be blow up as poster pictures and that means big in size as well.
Everything data related goes back to mb -- every picture, file required to make your design work and fancy slideshows. A picture may say a thousand words but when the website takes up 5% of your site visitor’s bandwidth and takes significant time to load, they won’t be happy. Fortunately, this problem is an easy fix, so if you have a few moments, go to your website and view any images that might take some time to load and optimise them.
There are online websites that allow you to upload your image and using their expert algorithms, optimise so they are fast to load yet ensure your visual appeal with sharp and crisp images remain.
4. Valuable real estate – the top fold
If you can master this and get your message in the top section of the website so it’s on the screen without any scrolling to engage website visitors, go find a friend and give them a high five!! Not only do you have limited time for your finicky website visitors, but you want to tell them so much about how wonderful you are and what you can do.
Find out how much space you need to get your compelling message to your prospective audience and place it on the top section of your website. This includes the contact number for people to connect with you.
5. Be authentic
Stop that thought about getting a $5.00 copywriter who lifts content from other people’s websites and then mashes up the words to make some supposedly SEO friendly waffle.
If there is something I can impress upon you all, be authentic.
Too many people spend too much time trying to get all the search engine friendly (or so they think) words and content in that relate to their industry, yet forget the most singular thing that people want to hear – YOU, your voice, your message -- the very reason why people should be doing business with you.
This is not done through hiring $5.00 copywriters or $1,000 copywriters if you are unable to be authentic in how you present your information to the world.
If I said you could have every customer in the world and service every business in the world, you would laugh and think it’s a joke. But this is how many business owners present information on their website (and in their marketing material too for that matter) and all they succeed in doing is sending a message to no one.
What successful businesses owners portray is passion about their business, knowledge about how they deliver their services and ethics in how they make people feel after doing business with them, and build up referral.
So spend some time after dinner, in the morning, maybe on a Sunday afternoon or when you take time to reflect and think of the type of customers you want and the ones you don’t want and make sure you message online conveys that information.
These 5 ways are things you can do and consider as a business owner to improve your how others see your website. Remember that it’s a mix of things you do that contribute to the success of your online journey.
It would be a perfect world if one thing would make all the difference in the world, but even if you managed these 5 things, over the period over the next 6 months, you should see some gains and hopefully learn more about what helps generate more profits from web technology.
Good luck and let me know if any of these tips have been helpful for you.