Is your website helping your business or hurting it?
No one wants to hear the words “Your website sucks”. Oh wait, most likely no one will actually tell you. They will just leave. Within the 3 seconds it takes them to make the decision “should I stay or should I go”.
Website design can be very personal, but every website should serve a purpose, not just be beautiful to look at. Good web design should also take into account ease of use as well as marketing strategies such as converting viewers into leads (using an opt-in or email capture form). And now having a mobile-optimized website is more important than ever a growing percentage of all internet activity taking place on mobile devices such as cell phones and tablets.
Don’t get up in arms about the title. Some or all of it may apply to you, and some of it may even apply to my website in other people’s eyes. I want you to be aware of the little things you can do or add when you create, redesign your website or start a new website or blog.
1. I can’t view it on my phone.
This is likely a big reason I hate your website. An ever-increasing number of people use their mobile device to view websites and that number is predicted to rise over the next few years.
According to CNN in January 2014 mobile devices accounted for 55% of Internet usage, and desktop computers only 45%. For the first time ever, Americans used smartphone and tablet apps more than PCs to access the Internet.
Nowadays people are searching for products and services using their smartphones or tablets. Keep that in mind when you design your website. Are the buttons or navigation menus easy to use on a mobile device?
Does the video or images take a long time to load?
Is your most important information missing in the mobile optimized version of your website?
Solution: Use a website theme that is mobile friendly.
If you hire someone to do it for you, make sure to ask your web developer to create one that is optimized for viewing and engaging on a mobile device.
2. Music tracks or autoplay video – especially when you can’t find the stop button.
Don’t do it. Unless you are a musician and you want me to sample your music. Then it makes sense for your brand.
It’s annoying. Especially for people who read your blog or stumble upon your website while at work, or on their Smartphone in a public place. And honestly, I don’t want to listen to Michael Buble over and over while I look at the photos in your portfolio. (No offense Michael, I do think you have a great voice.)
Solution: Silence is golden.
If you feel that music is necessary to enhance your image gallery, at least allow me the choice of whether I want to listen to it or not.
3. You haven’t told me why I’m here.
Within 5 seconds, I should be able to see what your product or service is, or how it can help me.
WIIFM – What’s in it for me. Yup, we are all selfish when it comes to spending our time or our money. Don’t make me guess.
And don’t assume that I know you already. I might have come to your website via a Google search, a Facebook ad, a link on other blog, an article in a newspaper, your business card that a friend gave me, or from your recent YouTube video or status update on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.
Solution: Make your website easy for your viewer.
In designing your website, it’s important to know who your target market is or what your niche is, so the people who will resonate with you will feel at home immediately. Make sure someone looking for your services who lands on your website says “Yes, I want to read more. I think you can help me.”
4. No easy way to search.
Help me to find out more. Or find out what I came specifically to find out about.
Solution: Add a search box.
There is nothing more frustrating to me than landing on your website, knowing I’ve heard a podcast that interests me, and not being able to find it unless I go back and use Google to search for it. If I have to leave, especially if I leave annoyed, I might not come back.
5. Chronological Archives.
Have you ever gone to someone’s blog and clicked the archives for March 2011? Or November 2012? No? Me neither. Listing your blog archive in that way is totally a waste of space. So are tag clouds. They are not logically searchable.
By leading me through your blog, you are creating traffic flow within your own site, and search engines really like that. They also like it that visitors are spending more than 5 seconds on your website.
6. Using a jarring array of colours and fonts.
Colours and fonts go through phases of popularity. That’s why it’s a good idea to refresh your website every 12-24 months. Not rebrand. Just update it. When you see a website with underlined headlines and titles it makes it look like the website was created in the 1990s.
One of my favourite places to find colours that go well together is Design Seeds. Beautiful photos with swatches of complementary and accent colours.
Solution: Step back and squint at your home page. What jumps out at you?
Is it the ad in the sidebar? The welcome video? Your compelling offer? Make sure the focus of your website is what you intended.
7. Links that don’t work.
Mistakes happen. Misspelled or mistyped links. A website being down. But if I try a few different links on your blog and I get a 404 error, that’s bad news and it says to readers that you don’t care, or are not up to date. Make sure to test any new page or blog post you publish, as well as when you perform an update or change a format (for example, if you switch your blog posts to include title only instead of the date, you will need to update all of the links you wrote on your post that link to other pages within your blog.)
Solution: Check your links.
Use a tool like Xenu Link Sleuth to test for broken links on a regular basis – at least every few months.
8. It’s boring.
If you are repeating something that 10 other bloggers have said, I can go to their website instead of yours. Your voice, the images you use, whether you add video to your blog posts, all help to set you apart and encourage me to keep reading, or even better, to subscribe to your blog.
Solution: Don’t write your blog posts to suit everyone.
“Everyone” is not your target market. You can help solve their problems better if you are speaking to your ideal client. Get to know them. What do they like about you? The way you give advice? Your sense of humour? Your authenticity and honesty? Don’t be afraid to pick a side. Your personality is a big part of your Unique Selling Proposition (USP). Don’t be afraid to be controversial once in a while, or to have an opinion. Sometimes those prove to be your most popular blog posts.
9. You immediately hit me with a popup to join your email list.
Scott Stratten, outspoken president of Unmarketing, had a heated debate on Twitter about popups. You know the ones – where you land on the page and a big box jumps into view asking for your email.
WAIT! I don’t even know you yet. It’s like a guy picks you up for your first date and when you answer the door, he leans in with a big sloppy kiss. NOT GOOD!
The popups that collect emails (such as Popup Domination) can be very effective for list building, but If I don’t make it past the first 3 lines, chances are, I’m not interested in giving you my email to subscribe.
Even worse are the ones websites that have a landing page that practically force me to give my email in order to proceed, although if you look around a bit you can usually find a way in. That makes sense for a membership site, but I want a bit of a courtship first to see if we are a good fit. You know, a bit of a browse around the shop. If I like what I read, then I’m more likely to share my email. Especially if you offer me something useful – an ethical bribe or compelling offer in exchange for “selling” you my email address.
Solution: Have static opt-in forms in strategic places
Add email capture forms to specific blog posts that are related to the offer enticing people to sign up. If you want a lead capture form that’s more attention-getting, try one that waits until I am near the end of a page or blog post. Clay Collins, in one of the most popular interviews on Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income podcast (#078), suggested that if someone is reading to the end of your blog post, they are a “hot lead”, so that is the best time to show them an opt-in form that is relevant to the article. Say, with a free checklist, mp3, report, or something of value, in exchange for give your their email address.
10. You are talking like a robot.
“At XYZ company we provide [insert keywords here] to customers in [insert every city within 100 miles]. Our [insert keyword] is the best solution to your [insert keyword] problem. People in [insert cities] love our products and services. We are passionate about helping you [insert keyword].”
You know what I’m talking about. The blog or website repeats keywords in hopes of getting their website to the first page of a Google search, and improve their search engine ranking. Unfortunately, that usually makes it a bad experience for real people who read it.
Search algorithms (the formula a search engine uses to determine your website rank) keep evolving. At one time you would see websites with a list of cities and keywords at the bottom of every page, or with various versions of keyword phrases for that industry liberally sprinkled throughout a blog post, in order to trick search engines.
Solution: Every page or blog post should have a unique title or headline.
It’s fine to use keywords, but if you are writing for the search robots, then how can you make a connection with your readers? Be authentic. If you want to improve your post for SEO, try using a tool like Inbound Writer that analyzes your website copy.
In summary, here’s what I want you to think about when it comes to creating or redesigning your website:
- What kind of a user experience do people have when they land on your website? Is there a good flow? Are the colours and fonts jarring or conflciting?
- Are you turning prospects into sales or clients? Do you have a mechanism in place to do this?
- Are you giving your fans and customers what they need or want?
- Are you making a connection with your website visitors? Can they see the real you, get to know you personally, and trust that you can help them or that you really understand them?
- Do you solve a problem? What pain point are you tackling that your readers have?
Keep in mind that this is NOT about search engine optimizing your website or blog. It’s purely about functionality and is your website user-friendly for visitors.
Your website is a statement about you, your brand. It provides information, but shouldn’t be a brochure or resume. It’s not about “me me me”. The main function of your website should be not just getting traffic, but turning those visitors into sales or devoted client evangelists.
I see too many businesses and entrepreneurs paying for a beautiful new website that is lacking in functionality. Or the marketing message is all about “me me me” not about what you can do for your customers.
And there are others who are do-it-yourselfers who use free website software with popup ads, where the colours or background patterns make me cringe. Even those on a budget can get an inexpensive but simple to use WordPress website theme. If you don’t want to spend time learning to do it yourself (even simple ones have a bit of a learning curve), then you could try outsourcing your website project on Odesk or Elance.
Test your website design with a few friends, colleagues and even some of your best clients. Tell them you want to improve their experience and ask them what they liked or disliked about your current website. You’d be surprised what a little market research will do.
Image source: freedigitalphotos.net