What is a website, exactly?
This isn’t a trick question or an insult to your intelligence. It’s an honest look at how people perceive the idea of a website today and a nudge to get you thinking about your own site.
Most organizations have preconceived notions about their site needs or how it should function based on what others are doing. (“I want an RSS subscription… and it needs to link my Facebook updates to my Twitter account…” and so on.) By the end, the site has so many features, widgets, plugins and calls-to-action that it is too cluttered to use.
As a result, some of the most effective websites today are top performers because of what they don’t include:
- Rue La La, a fashion site, features a limited list of clothing products for sale each day behind a login wall, making it impossible for non-members to see the deal.
- Groupon offers one or two coupons per day for your specific city – not ten or fifteen.
- ZenHabits is a blog focused on simplifying the fast-paced world of technology.
A few tips to consider, whether you are starting from scratch or re-working your current site:
1.) Start with the End in Mind
Look at the desired final outcome of a visitor first, and work backward from there.
- Do you want someone to buy something online?
- Give you their email address?
- Subscribe to your blog, or leave a comment on your latest blog post?
- Send out a tweet?
- Call your office or set up an in-person appointment?
On this website, our top three priorities are simple:
- Have prospects interested in setting up their online presence Contact Us,
- Have people sign up for our weekly newsletter – The Bright Idea, and/or
- Subscribe to the blog.
We’re also working on a few other elements that will help visitors find what they’re looking for more easily, share our content, and understand what we offer more clearly.
What can we do to make our goals more clear and actionable?
2.) User Experience is Everything
It doesn’t matter how great the content or deep the discount – if a website is hard to read, difficult to navigate, or generally cluttered, visitors leave. It’s a shame too, because there are so many great companies doing amazing work. But if they can’t tell their story simply and effectively, they have lost the battle.
Put yourself in your visitor’s shoes:
- What do you look for in a website?
- On average, how long do you stay on a website?*
- What are the first things you look for?
- What are the last things you look for?
This is your chance to keep your site simple, to convert visitors into believers, and believers into buyers.
What can you do to make your visitor’s experience with your website as seamless as possible?
(*NOTE: If you aren’t tracking these statistics for your own website, contact us now. We need to have a chat.)
3.) Provide Value, Value, Value
Chances are good that as a business owner, you are thoroughly impressed with your company’s latest press release. The problem is that you’re probably the only one. Don’t get me wrong, press releases have their place in an online strategy. But if they are the keystone of your content strategy, visitors and search engines alike will pass over your site like a plane from 14,000 feet.
Instead work to answer the questions that your prospects and current customers have about your organization.
- What essential information is needed before a “buying decision” takes place?
- What will keep them coming back?
- What will ultimately get them to say “yes” to your call-to-action?
Web design isn’t rocket science.
The systems and features have been built. But without a clear vision and the proper tools, a website can shift from a platform to connect your customers, generate leads, and make sales into your competitor’s strongest marketing piece.
(Photo credit: sacks08)