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12 Ways To Improve Your Website

12 Ways To Improve Your Website

While a lot of web design is an art, improving useability, stickability and ROI is a science.  Why do I say this? Because all those “-ability” and acronyms phrases are used in science-related fields, while feel-good phrases, such as “attractive”, “memorable”, and “distinctive” are used in art-related fields.  As a closet economist, I tend to trend to the science section of web design.  Our good friends at HubSpot published a blog on “How To Make Sure Your Website Passes the Dreaded Blink Test” which covers a lot of the science parts, and some of the artsy parts of web design in an easy-to-read post.  What is a “Blink Test”?  It’s the first I heard this term too, but it relates to the 3 to 5 seconds your website has to convince a visitor to continue exploring and not hit the dreaded back button.

In summary, they say to check the following:

  1. Make Sure The Website Loads Quickly:  Visitors now expect to see content within 2 seconds, that’s fast for a visually intense website.  A lot of it has to do with the size and quantity of images used, so make sure you resize images to fit the website.  Slow load speeds may also have to do with your Host.  Low-Cost hosting companies typically have a lot of websites on each server, but there is only so much bandwidth that a server can use.  Too many visitors trying to reach the server, and the load speed of each website drops.
  2. Use Attractive Visual Design: This is one of those artsy things, and a lot of art is in the eye of the beholder, so make sure you know your audience.  Check out your competitors’ websites to see the expect bar you’ll need to clear in visual design.  Lastly, make it easy to understand, without a lot of subtle messages.  For example, visitors may not read the caption under the image that explains why you have a picture of a cat on a unicycle, they may just conclude that your not serious about your business.
  3. Start with an Informative Headline that Conveys Your Value Proposition: Big, Bold, right across the top “Why You Should Do Business With Me!”  It’s amazing how many companies put themselves into the commodity marketplace because they don’t know their own value. Spend some time figuring that out, ask clients why they selected you, find out the best sales points that resonate with prospects, then get these right in front of your website visitors.  I once knew a company that said their customers probably bought from them, because they didn’t know any better.  Not a good marketing strategy!
  4. Provide Easy Navigation: Categorize your content and then make the top level menu reflect those categories.  Use analytics and insights to find out what people are searching for and what pages have the best time on page, then get these accessible so it only takes a click or two to get to them.
  5. Use Images That Explains What You Do and Support Your Copy: We all like images that convey a 1,000 words, and stock images are so easy and cheap to use, but they have been over-used so much that they’ve lost their ability to convey their message.  use stock images to determine the message you are trying to express, and then get an actual photo or illustration that represents your business stating that message.  A remember, professional photographers can be used for more than just weddings!
  6. Provide Content that’s Easy to Consume: You want to speak to your visitor, not over your visitor.  Sometimes it may be hard to get the right message published in a concise and easy-to-read manner.  Spend some additional time on the message then, break down the message into smaller chunks to publish over time, or hire a copy-writer.  It’s well worth the investment.
  7. Create a Congruous Experience: One way to make sure that your visitors attention gets captured is to deliver to them what they were looking for!  If you use banner ads, social media bridges or PPC, then make sure the link goes to a page with relevant content.  The worst thing to do it to interest a potential visitor with potential “read more content” and then insult them by making them search for the content by sending them to your home page.
  8. Prove Your Site is Credible: There is so much fraud on the internet that we are all skeptical about any claims a website makes.  Provide testimonials, trust seals, associations badges, and then link them to 3rd party sites to confirm the credibility.  I hate sites that have an “A+ BBB rating” that do not link to their BBB profile.  Often when I have searched for them on the BBB, I can’t find them or find their rating is far worse then they stated.  Also the value of a testimonial is directly related to the Social Status of the reviewer.  if you can link the reviewer name to a profile page, or show testimonials from a 3rd party Social Media site, like LinkedIn, Google+ or Yelp, the credibility will go much further.
  9. Put Important Information on the Top of Your Page: “Above the fold” is an old carry-over term from newspaper days, but it is more important with websites then ever.  Looking at readability test, we know that 80% of all visitor’s time is spent looking at the top of the website, and most do not scroll to read more.  Get your important content where it will be most frequently read.
  10. Avoid Excessive Call-to-Actions: While I hate the pop-up pages for subscribe to a newsletter, get a free trial, or download an e-book, the fact is they work better than Call-to-Action buttons in the sidebar.  If there are too many, or they are too repetitive, you will lose visitors.  If you must use them, keep them simple, and use tags so you do not overload a visitor with offers on each page.
  11. Make It Easy to Take the Next Step:  The purpose of your website is probably to get more customers, so give your visitors a clear path to engage with you on a commercial basis.  Explain your sales process and deliverables so it’s clearly understandable how a visitor engages you and what they will receive.  Put it near the top, and make it stand out from the rest of the website.  For example: If you want your phone to ring, make sure your phone number is on every page, and is active for mobile use… which brings us to our last and soon-to-be most important step….
  12. Optimize for Mobile and Tablet: Sales of tablets and smartphones have exploded in the past year.  Some predictions are that by the end of this year tablet and smartphone will be used more for internet viewing than desktops and laptops.  This present two challenges to web designers: how to make sure that websites are readable on the smaller screens, and how to make sure that navigation can be performed with a mobile visitor’s fat finger versus desktop visitor’s precise mouse.  There are several ways to address this, from mobile redirects to a secondary webpage to responsive web design.  A good web designer can outline the options and costs with you.

So take a look at your website and see how many of these items you already have, and which ones you need to work on for 2013.

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