Perhaps it’s synergy or timing. Maybe bad site design is just a prevalent problem? The reaction to my last two articles was overwhelming and brought some interesting inquiries from people wanting advice about why their web sites weren’t working for them. The answer was easy: When your site just isn’t performing, maybe it’s the site and not your product.
The article, “How to Work With a Web Designer,” brought kudos from both web designers and business owners for laying out a proper and easy guide to attain the best results when building a web presence. One of the biggest problems with having a web site that works is when you don’t know what to include and what NOT to include!
The article, “Helping Your Client/Business Evolve Web Presence,” gave people a key to promote their web sites and offered marketing advice by using social media but some people thought that social media was the end-all solution to their problems.
The past week brought up some clear examples of the basic problem with some sites. In the first of several articles that will be published over the next few weeks, we’ll take a look at how to recognize when your site isn’t performing for you and methods to improve design and usability.
Understanding the Problem
One person who contacted me wanted all of his copy content rewritten to help his site. He was afraid that the copy didn’t sell his product and was willing to just hand over a large sum of cash for rewrite. While I like an easy lump of cash just handed to me, there’s some odd moral roadblock I have to cheating a client.
I looked over this person’s site and had to level with him. Yes, new copy content would help sell his product but he also needed a drastic web redesign. I explained why his site wasn’t performing well. He had a targeted, high-class product but a site that was badly designed and made the product look cheap. The sell copy was confused, had the wrong placement on the home page and didn’t speak to his target audience.
Another problem is he included some “fun facts” pages on his site that had nothing to do with his product. He thought id added some interest to those visiting his site but it ended up diluting the focus on his product and muddled the site strength.
Another contact was from a designer who wondered why his site wasn’t drawing in any comments, “likes” or business inquiries. He wondered if my writing blog posts for him would bring people in and help promote his work. Again, it wasn’t the need for a distraction of a blog that was the answer.
It was the quality of the images that was the first stopping block. His introduction page, which was a grouping of four images was a negative for first impressions as he had taken such low resolution images, increased the size and the visual was blurry. I suspected that those who found his site were immediately turned off by the first impression of his work as a creative…unless they were looking for blurry images for their own sites. First impressions can also be the last impression you make on prospective clients.
Some Basics to Remember With Site Planning and Design
Bad Design is the number one killer. If you don’t believe quality is important in your site, logo, branding and/or visuals that represent your business to the public, in a visual setting such as a web site, then you are fooling yourself. Yes, copy content will tell the prospective client the facts that visuals don’t cover or expand on the visuals but the first impression is the images and placement of all elements on the home page and proceeding pages.
The old saying is you can’t put ten pounds of information into a five-pound bag but people will try to cram in as much as they can to sell the product/service as fast as possible. Sites don’t work this way. The home page is your welcome mat at your front door with a courteous greeting and proper introduction. When people come in and are comfortably seated, then you hit them up with all the pertinent information. That is what the “about me” page and other secondary pages are for.
Generally, people want to search out further material and be engaged by your site and explore your product/services. It’s a friendly stay that builds comfort and trust.
Making people work too hard or think too much when visiting your site is a negative experience. The web moves fast and if a viewer has to click more than twice to get to where they want to go, they will leave your site. By the same token, if your pages load slowly, people will get tired of waiting and go elsewhere. The web is not a place where patience and understanding go far.
Omitting important information or making it hard to find will exasperate the most ardent viewers, so keep everything simple. When planning your site, use the tried and true K.I.S.S. method (Keep It Simple, Stupid!). If you feel that you want people to call for further information, you may just be outsmarting yourself. Not all sites can list pricing information but the more information you can give a prospect on the web, the more likely they are to give you that call when they feel they won’t have to listen to a long, drawn out sales pitch.
Bad navigation is another problem that infuriates viewers. If pages are “orphaned” (no link back to the home page) or links and emphasized words are similar, using different colors, people will get frustrated and leave your page. Use bolding but not different colors for non-linked words. Making your site look like a candy store isn’t effective…unless your site is for a candy store!
Using a menu bar in your site design assures that viewers can easily move around the site and remember where they have been and where they need to go. Pull down menus can help with multiple page sites but when there are too many choices on the menu, people tend to get confused and will search out your competitor.
Bells and whistles and prancing glitter unicorn gifs went out with sites of the 1990s. Too many images, distractions and anything else that will make your site load slowly has a negative impact on your site. As with the gentleman who had several pages of material that took away from the focus on his product, why bother? A fun and friendly approach can be achieved with the copy but keep it to the point.
Color is an important factor in design. It’s said that dark background sites with contrasting lettering is hard to read and makes people work harder to get the message. A mix of the wrong colors may cause vibration to the eye and will give viewers a splitting headache. Some people have color preferences but think of color psychology when it comes to your site (blue is calming, red is powerful and energetic, yellow is fun and happy, etc.). Don’t get others involved in color choices because personal preferences will override what is best for the site.
Design by committee will be the death of a site! If you ask ten people what they think should be done with the site, you will get ten completely different opinions that contradict each other. Who’s right and who’s wrong? Site design is almost mathematic. Two plus two will always equal four and site design, while there are certain design values that are open to inspiration, there are many lines that just should not be crossed and when multiple opinions are honored due to indecision of a project leader, then you will end up with a watered down version of what will be effective. Would you surround a prospect in your office with ten salespeople, all shouting different sales points at the customer? Of course not.
Your site won’t reflect your brand when you take a shotgun approach to the design. As with design by committee, dancing around the basic, correct and logical message with indecision and timidity, you won’t get your message across. Your brand is your business, how you do business and the consumer experience when purchasing or using your product/service. Don’t include confusion as part of your brand!
Is your product or service a niche? If so, you must have your site targeted at your customer base. Once again, a professional designer will be able to create a site that reflects that niche. Make sure you have a complete and frank discussion with the designer of your customer’s habits and needs and how your product or service fulfills those needs.
Keep your content updated! There’s nothing worse than out of date content when trying to communicate with your customers and prospects. If the information and images aren’t up to date, you may also be legally liable for returns and the return of service fees. Your web designer is an ongoing service provider for your site, not only to grow and evolve your site as your business grows but also to service the changes in your product or services and changes in technology as well.
Humanize your site so customers will feel engaged. Allow comments as part of your social media but keep them under strict moderation to protect your brand. Client testimonials are one of the best selling tools your site can have for prospects considering your service or product.
Share your content with ease. Make sure it’s easy for people to share your site content and subscribe via an RSS feed. The best marketing is the kind other people do for you. With share sites like Pinterest, Facebook, StumbleUpon, etc., you can really increase your site visibility. Shares can help with viral marketing, too!
Contact pages have evolved past the simple address and phone number listing. Forms for requesting information, maps of your location, links for easy click and connect are simple and make it easier for your clients to contact and find you as well as get feedback for questions. It’s important to monitor incoming messages and respond quickly. Delayed responses means the client will perceive indifference on your part and that’s what is responsible for 62% of clients leaving a business or never using the service.
Mobile apps are becoming…or have become, an important part of reaching your clients and prospects. Is your site mobile friendly? Do you really need it to be? If you do, then you’d better make sure you have a designer/design team that can handle it correctly!
Certainly there are other considerations in designing your site. Did your web developer build in SEO (search engine optimization) into your site? A professional will but ask what keywords and tags have been used and what search terms will be affected by them.
Credibility is all of these points brought together in the end. Hiring a professional designer or design firm is important. Your site is the first impression most of your prospects will have of your business. Saving a few dollars by looking for a bargain is counterproductive to your business and your brand. Looking cheap is not the impression you want to make on prospective clients. Good, sharp design with functionality is your best bet when it comes to site design.
If you have questions about why something is being designed a certain way, a competent designer or design firm will be able to explain design decisions. Be open to these reasons as they are usually competent, professional and experienced reasons. Leave personal preferences out of the design process because your personal preferences are not those of a mass of prospects. The one common thread is your product or service and that is what they will want or not based purely on their needs.
In the next article, we’ll look at A/B testing of web sites. How can you effectively find out what is best for customer outreach or test new product offerings while not disturbing your web traffic flow? Check back to read the answers!
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