Put simply, there’s a distinct possibility that your website might suck. Perhaps you’re painfully aware of the many sins your website is guilty of committing or maybe you’re blissfully oblivious. Either way, let’s take a step back and hold a magnifying glass up to each facet of your web presence.
When our team objectively critiques websites, we assess them based on ten very important rules that we believe must not be broken. So, get comfortable, pour yourself a cup of coffee (or a nice ‘adult beverage’, we’re not judging!) and begin to embark on the journey to abolishing all your website woes!
1. Always be responsive
Your website needs to be 100% responsive. This means it displays appropriately on all devices and screen sizes with a layout that isn’t broken and is appropriate for touch screens or mice/trackpads on respective devices.
Google’s research has shown that over half of your users will immediately leave if they are on their phone and it loads a desktop-oriented website. Think about the impact that could have on your business. Also, it’s worth mentioning that Google penalizes websites if they are not mobile-friendly, meaning your website will rank lower in search results than it would otherwise.
2. Avoid being stale
If major search engines have started forgetting all about you, then it’s possible your website content is getting stale. Google, as well as most other search engines, pride themselves on not delivering old, outdated results.
Broken links, stale information, and irrelevant or low-quality content is ranked lower; and fresh, helpful material is given a boost to appear higher in search results. The reasoning behind this is simple: When users approach Google with an inquiry, they are trusting that the most relevant and recent content is being presented to them. If they weren’t getting the best results, they wouldn’t be coming back. Imagine searching Google for advice about an illness and receiving a search result recommending blood-letting (gross!). That’s a hilariously bad and very unrealistic example, but you get the point!
With this in mind, the longer you leave your website without fresh content that is sharable and relevant, the more you’ll slide down the search engines’ lists of results. And in the end? You might even disappear.
3. Create an emotional connection with your audience
Creating an emotional connection with your audience should be one of your primary concerns. Not only are emotionally involved prospects more likely to engage with your business, but they also offer more value to your business over longer periods of time.
Have you ever landed on a website or interacted with a brand and thought “Wow! I like this, it feels like they get me!”? You wholeheartedly trust the business and you actively want to like them. A great real-world example of this is how passionate some people can be about brands they interact with like Coca-Cola (ever offer a Coke drinker a Pepsi? You might as well be offering them dirt) or fans of Apple products, Nintendo products, etc. This is because these brands resonate with their audience on a personal and emotional level.
Truth be told, it’s easier said than done. It takes zero effort to make a bad impression that leaves visitors feeling underwhelmed and confused, versus the careful planning and deliberation required to genuinely attract qualified and eager prospects.
4. Know your primary call-to-action
You heard that you should build a website, and so you did! You heard that your website would miraculously connect you with wonderful new business opportunities, endless sales, and amazing clients…and it didn’t. The good news is that you’re not alone. Many websites lack a thoughtful strategy and their messaging often ends up tooting their own horns, rather than focusing on solving their audiences’ problems, providing a positive user experience, and addressing pain points.
The key to addressing this is identifying one core action you would like a user to take on your website and giving them a direct path to do it. This is called a Call-To-Action (CTA), and you’ve seen it before on many websites, usually in the form of a compelling sentence and invitation to take action. Something like “Tired of having this problem? Click here now to see instant results!” with a big clickable, attention-grabbing button.
Lacking clear CTA instances like the one above on your website GREATLY reduces the chance that a potential lead will make the first move and contact you. Imagine a house with no obvious front entrance: the chances of someone taking the time to hunt down another entrance is slim: they will simply move on to the next house with an obvious entry!
Learning the art of an enticing CTA is a must; however, this is something to be used sparingly and with tact, as there can also be too many call-to-actions integrated into a website. While it might seem like a wonderful idea to give your website visitors a variety of doors to open, it can often backfire (think of the classic scenario of being in an ice cream shop with too many flavors to choose from!). When you present a plethora of potential actions for a visitor to take, there’s a very high chance they will avoid all of them. Take time to evaluate how your website is or isn’t using CTAs and make adjustments as needed.
5. Reflect thy brand
Have you ever landed on a website and thought to yourself, “Hmm…this looks exactly like the last website I looked at!”. Or when you try to recall a website or brand you’ve interacted with and can’t seem to remember it very well? That’s definitely a problem you want to avoid! If you don’t want to get lost in a sea of templated websites and mundane content, you have to stand out.
A great example is when you hear the brand name Apple, you don’t immediately think of the fruit, you think of a very specific feeling and that feeling creates an emotional response. Regardless of whether you love them or hate them, you think about their unique designs, their operating system, their product ecosystem, and what they stand for. This goes far beyond logos and imagery or even creative advertising campaigns. As we’ve already covered, the Apple brand connects with consumers on an emotional level, resulting in their customers feeling a sense of loyalty to the brand itself.
With that being said, a website that lacks brand personality lacks the ability to be memorable, and if you’re not being memorable to your website visitors, you’re not doing your job as a business effectively.
6. Offer quality social proof
Anyone can claim to do something, but not everyone can put their money where their mouth is. This is why it’s very important to add evidence of your legitimacy. This could include statistics for improvements you’ve made internally, awards, ratings, association memberships and more. Better yet, add social proof in the form of testimonials: using the voice of your happy customers paired with a headshot to make users feel connected. Other forms of social proof are case studies with metrics included (numbers of shares on social media or download counts, etc.). These small additions to your website can have a major impact on how your visitors view your brand!
7. Be nimble, be quick
Although each website is unique and performance issues affect every website differently, you must avoid creating a frustrating experience for your users, and this usually means providing them with a speedy site to peruse through.
Depending on the website page, the neurological impact of load times can either strengthen or offset aspects of the website like its layout, visual design, content/messaging and the order in which pages are browsed. When your visitors are exploring your website, they are in a ‘decision-making’ mode and it becomes very cognitively demanding, leaving users more vulnerable to becoming frustrated if the website slows them down. It’s vital to remember that the browsing stage of your visitor’s journey is where a lot of decision-making happens, so it’s not surprising to learn that there is a correlation between slow page speed and frustration.
8. Remain visually consistent
As far as a website layout goes, always keep it simple and reflective of your brand. The simpler, cleaner, and easier-to-navigate your layout is, the more difficult it is for your website to go stale. Too much style impresses but quickly tires; if design isn’t your wheelhouse, opt for classic grids, and proportionate content to ensure that your website will hold up.
If your website styling is not a direct extension of your brand, you’re diluting your brand and reducing the capacity for users to recognize your brand in other settings. It has the power to decrease your credibility as a professional business, leaving you open to a competitor who has a cohesive, on-brand website that one up’s your efforts.
9. Navigate predictably
Having a website that is difficult to navigate is like inviting guests to your home just to let them get lost, become bored, and leave. Your website design needs to allow for quick and simple navigation so that a user never becomes lost. If a user becomes lost, you’re bound to lose them as a potential customer, and this is simply unacceptable! A clearly visible navigation bar needs to be present and prominently placed so that it can be seen on a screen of any size. Don’t forget the sitemap either, your pages should be intelligently organized and categorized so that users can intuitively find the pages they are looking for. If they can’t find information easily, they are quick to give up.
10. Get in touch with your contact information
Placing your vital contact information (phone, email, address, social media icons, etc.) in a noticeable and predictable spot is surprisingly overlooked by many. Could someone contact you based on only the information provided on your home page? Forcing a user to hunt for basic information creates a negative user experience–frankly, most of the time they just won’t bother. If your competitor is easy to contact, that’s who they’re going to contact. So, with that said, get in touch with your contact information, make sure it’s there for potential customers or clients when they want it. After all, you want them to reach out to you, don’t you?
The cold, hard truth.
Just because you are online and your website can be visited, doesn’t mean it’s actually benefiting your business or that it can even be found. Conversely, a bad website that is getting web-traffic could be hurting your image and pushing potential clients away by creating a perception that is far from your truth. A wonderful website is a detailed and deeply considered undertaking, a place where content, audience, funnels, user experience, design and strategy all come together to produce the best possible results for your business.
Make no mistake, the point of this article was not to convince you to update your website simply for the sake of change. While a website redesign strategy is an important and demanding process which requires plenty of time and effort, think about the reason you got a website in the first place. It exists to promote your work, offer your products and/or services, help potential customers solve their problems, and most importantly, it gets them excited to interact with you! So, ask yourself if your website is making a negative impression or lasting impression?