10 Tips that Drastically Improve the Effectiveness of your Website
10 traits that you'll consistently find on successful websites that can be easily added to improve yours.
There are certain traits that you’ll find consistently on many successful websites. Although each of these may not apply to every one, they do help to create a solid foundation when beginning a new site, or when recommending changes to existing ones. The following list of 10 questions highlight the traits I’ve found that make a real difference to the overall impact of a website and help to improve it. When we look at the slim margins between your brand and your competitors, these small but highly effective changes can make all the difference in the decisions your customers and/or clients make.
No matter how much you think you can help everyone, you can’t be all things to all people. Figure out who your core customers are and fine tune your website to speak to them the same way you would in a face to face conversation. This is your chance to stand out and make a good first impression.
Regardless of how you see yourself, you are an expert. From IT services to women’s shoes, the insights you provide combined with your core values are the reasons your customers and/or clients work with you. These are the keys that differentiate you from your competitors. Embrace them and make sure it’s woven into the fabric of your story. This is where trust is created and ultimately, the attributes you’re able to hang your hat on.
Credibility is created through your track record of successful experiences. If your proven method consistently translates into results, then people will be more comfortable doing business with you. Let your experiences tell the story for you. Through cases studies and testimonials, prospective clients and customers can put themselves in the shoes of past customers to gain a stronger sense of reassurance. People may not necessarily trust businesses, but they feel at ease trusting other people’s endorsements and recommendations. Let your customers become your brand ambassadors and do the talking for you.
You have all of this great information on your website, but without a clear call to action, your customers won’t know what steps they’re supposed to take next - make sure it’s obvious. Buttons like "Learn More", "Read More", "Buy Now", "Register Now" and "Go" clearly state the results that will occur when they take action. If personal contact is required or recommended, make sure to include messaging that directs customers to your email address and phone number. Remove the guesswork from your site.
Print ads and outdoor boards create interest, while websites are resources that provide information. People are accustomed to going online to search for more information. However, if it’s not on your site, or it’s easier to find on a competitor’s, your investment is going toward helping them. Your site needs to support your collateral materials by becoming the anchor for all of your initiatives. If it’s your story, you should be the one telling it.
A website that doesn’t support your objectives is like taking a trip without directions. There’s a chance you get there after a couple wrong turns, but more often it results in failing to reach your destination. If you’re lost, how are you going to be able to help your customers? Objectives keep you on course, allow you to see any obstacles that might get in your way and ultimately give you a good idea of the best path to achieve your goals. Not only do they set where you go, but they help to highlight the best way to get there too.
When I sold tires in college, I knew many of my customers’ questions and concerns before they ever asked. Why? Because everyday I heard the same ones over and over again. And I bet most of your customers ask the same questions too. By knowing what they’re going to ask, you can prepare insightful answers that will be valuable in their buying process. It’s even more valuable to answer these on your website for all to see. Although many sites include FAQ sections, most answers can be addressed more conversationally within the over arching content of the site. Use these questions as a base for what information needs to be included. You already have insight on what your customers want to know, do they really have to ask again?
As customers research their options, your site won’t be the only one they visit. Although your first impulse might be to create something out of the box to stand out, make sure the information is easy to identify, compare and differentiate with other competitor sites. Customers need the ability to quickly make an apples to apples comparison that doesn’t force them to spend tons of time digging deeper to find the answers they need to reinforce their decisions. Don’t hurt your chances because you’ve made your information too complex.
Fancy buttons and creative naming conventions are great for exploratory sites where people want a richer, more immersive experience, but remember that most people visiting your site came to get answers. Your customers shouldn’t need instructions to find what they’re looking for, or need to click more than 3 times to find it. Through the use of drop down or expandable menus and strong calls to action, you’ll be able to more easily funnel traffic from your home page to the sub pages that house important content and information. Navigational buttons should easily identify where they lead and any contact information should be intuitively placed. They aren’t looking to waste a lot of time digging for those answers. Think 3 seconds. Any longer and your customer has already moved on.
With almost 150 million people owning a smartphone in the U.S., there’s a very good chance that your customers are already looking at your site on something other than a desktop computer. As people continue upgrading to new mobile contracts, the numbers will continue to rapidly increase. The days of thinking that people will be forgiving of having to pinch, zoom and scroll your full-size site on their small screens are quickly diminishing while a lighter mobile site doesn’t provide enough information. Customers expect to have an optimized web experience regardless of how they choose to view your site. More and more people make purchasing decisions on these devices so you need to make sure your competitors aren’t the only ones providing valuable information and content to customers quickly and efficiently.
The more you try to identify these key items, the more they will begin to stand out to you. Check out other sites and see how they address each of these traits. Note both good and bad examples and figure out what you would do differently to improve the customer experience. If you see other traits that aren’t on this list, add them to yours. What elements would you consider critical to building a successful website?