‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ as they say. And although you may think your company’s website looks great (especially after all the hard work it took to build it), the customer’s point of view comes first. With websites, less is often more, and the features you love — the Flash Player graphics and 2,000-word company history — could well be the things that make your site difficult to navigate.
If you want to create and maintain a money-making website that promotes your brand in a positive light, check if yours is failing in any of these areas:
1. It’s impossible to find basic information
Sometimes, artistic license gets in the way of what people need most: information. This can be incredibly frustrating for would-be customers. For your key pages at least, there are tried and tested formulas that make your website work harder with less:
This is the page people will most likely land on when they first visit your site. That means impressions count, so use clear copy to describe what your company is, what it does and why people should buy from you. Include a clear call to action and make it easy for people to navigate to the next relevant page.
- The menu.
Choose a menu that suits your business. A simple ‘burger menu’ works best for some, while a horizontal text menu is the perfect fit for others.
- ‘Products’, ‘Services’ or ‘Shop’.
When users land here, they mean business. Make it easy for them to search, browse or manually navigate to the items they’re looking for. Use clear, well-lit product photos and a simple design that makes them stand out from the background. Don’t forget to include prices, delivery information and specifications on each product page too.
- ‘About Us’.
This page should be succinct, focusing on the things that make your business unique — think of three reasons people should buy from you or use your services. You should also consider that potential investors or partners will be looking at this page, so consider how you’ll be perceived by those individuals as well as customers.
- ‘Contact’. This page should outline the facts: your business address, a map from Google, opening hours, contact number, email address and links to your social media.
2. Items are out of stock
If your online store is constantly out of stock, customers are going to give up and take their money elsewhere. By using an e-commerce system that syncs inventory across both your brick-and-mortar and online stores, you’ll always know whether you’re well-stocked or in need of a top up.
3. There are no direct links to social media
It’s often more convenient for customers to follow your business on social media than to constantly check your website. In many ways, it’s also easier and cheaper to use social media as your most active marketing channel. Any type of business can benefit from posting about company updates, special offers and discounts for their followers, and you can drive extra attention through user generated content. As a basic measure, add social media buttons to your website’s ‘Contact’ page. And for maximum impact, include them on your product pages and photo gallery, so that visitors can share their favourite items and images with the world.
If you haven’t built a presence there yet, here’s why every small business should be on social media.
4. You’re using autoplay music and animations
You know those autoplay ads that rudely interrupt your reading experience online? Websites that play music or animations create the same annoyance for potential customers. They also increase the load time of your pages which stops people getting to the information they need, and can negatively impact your SEO ranking in Google. Today’s online shoppers are both savvy and short on time, so design your website accordingly.
5. The load time is slow
As we mentioned above, the more bells and whistles you add to your website, the longer it takes to load. The longer the load time, the more likely customers will be to give up and leave. It can also be costly for their mobile phone data bill. As well as ditching the music and animations, a really streamlined website uses these tactics:
- Avoiding Flash Player elements (which often have compatibility issues)
- Compressing images to the smallest file size possible whilst maintaining clarity
- Using hosting services (YouTube or Vimeo) instead of self-hosting videos
- Cutting down on plugins
- Compressing the website code (you can ask your developer to do more technical tasks like this)
6. It’s hard to read
A black background with white text, a white background with cream text — these are both design choices that instantly make your website more difficult to read. Couple that with a tiny font size or a busy background, and most people will find themselves having a negative experience. Before you launch your site, ask a range of friends and family members (of various ages and web experience) for their honest opinion about the visibility of text and elements on your site. Measure their responses and make adjustments based on your findings. If you’re really serious about ease of use, Google provides tools that will help you take your site’s accessibility to the next level.
7. The content is outdated
A website that doesn’t look up to date can reflect badly on your business. If you don’t have the time or man-power to keep it current, make the design simple and only include key information. Post information about sales, events and new merchandise on your social media channels instead. The same applies to your blog — if you’re not updating it frequently, it’s best not to have one.
8. It’s not optimised for mobile
Customers are increasingly using their smartphones to go online. This means your website needs to be optimised so that it’s fully usable on mobile as well as desktop. Responsive design ensures that your website works on a variety of devices, windows and screen sizes. When you optimise your site for mobile, you’re showing customers that you understand their needs and you’re open for business with everyone, anywhere.
When it comes to websites, there’s no strict one-size-fits-all formula, but if you can avoid the pitfalls above, you’ll be on your way to providing an experience people will remember and come back to. When potential customers visit your site, keep in mind how little time they may have and how many other websites they’ve already seen that day. It’s the job of your website to deliver the most critical information as quickly and easily as possible. Think simple and focus on the user.