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October 21, 2016

Is Your Website Harming Your Business?

Dual monitors with web interface display
Photo by Tranmautritam from Pexels
Taxes, insurance, financial ledgers, and employee/vendor relations are enough to consume a business owner's waking hours. Balancing it all, while trying to grow your company can move your website farther down the priority list.

Being the daughter of an entrepreneur, I’m intimately familiar with the demands of being your own boss. Even though I opted out of the family franchises, as a new sole proprietor who designs websites for a living, I can definitively say that a well designed, easy to use site should be at the top of your priority list. An uncared for website could be harmful to your business and here’s why.

Your website is your business

It embodies your brand and it could be hurting you. If you haven't touched your website in over three years, it's understandable. As a business owner, you've got a lot on your plate. Nevertheless, there have been significant changes in web design since you last updated your site that could affect your bottom line.  An outdated website with stagnant content negatively impacts customer perception, which damages your credibility.  Your company could be incorrectly viewed as low-quality or unprofessional.

Your online business needs TLC too

If you have a brick and mortar business, you've undoubtedly put a considerable amount of time and energy into curb appeal, signage, cleanliness and hiring friendly staff to greet customers– the same should apply to your website.  Small businesses are operating in a digital world, where consumers are increasingly tech savvy and have a penchant for quality web design.  They've come to expect their online experience with small businesses to be equivalent to those of large corporations.

Where to invest to get more customers

Applying a little "digital elbow grease" to make the updates and improvements needed, will enhance the caliber of your company's website. Follow these basic guidelines and you'll be well on your way to attracting new customers, while making your website work as hard as you do.  

Get a Professionally Designed Logo
Your logo is the most important and recognizable component of your company identity, it is your businesses' signature and one of the first things consumers see on your website. The hallmark of a well designed logo is one that is distinctive and representative of your brand personality. It may be tempting to try and create one on your own (which is fine if you have experience in brand identity design), but if not, it's probably best to call in the pros.  


Ensure Your Homepage is Captivating and Well Organized
The old adage of "you never get a second chance to make a first impression" is still relevant today, especially as it relates to websites.  When visitors arrive, you have a window of mere seconds to capture their attention.  Make sure that the lead image is appealing enough to draw visitors further into your content. Content on your homepage should be organized in a way where information is quick and easy to find. Everything should work as expected and each content area should be both purposeful and operational or it should be removed. Avoid making visitors struggle to find the information they're looking for or risk them becoming frustrated when things don't work as expected.  This could leave a negative impression that may cost you a business prospect or loss of a potential sale.

Optimize Content for Search
Writing effective copy is just the tip of the iceberg, you'll also want to make sure that your messaging is visible when people search specific keywords and phrases.  To do this, insert descriptive terms into your headlines, supporting copy and page titles. For example, let's say you're the owner of a sneaker boutique in Brooklyn and you're looking to update your online store.  Instead of just "Sneakers" as a headline, you might want to add the keywords "new" and "exclusive".  In the supporting copy, instead of "Take a look at our selection", you might want to be more descriptive and say "Our boutique features the most exclusive, hard-to-find sneakers in the heart of Brooklyn".  And finally, for your page title, you could use "Fly Kicks for Men: Limited Edition Sneakers" instead of "Men's Shoes". With these types of adjustments, your website will have a better chance of appearing on search result pages.

Make Sure Navigation is Clear and Explicit
The navigation links at the top of your website are how visitors explore content, one wrong click and you could risk abandonment. The link labels should always be clear, succinct and specific. To put it into perspective, think about when you're driving—you use road signs to safely navigate from point A to B.  If these signs are not easily understood, labeled incorrectly or point in the wrong direction, you'll be taken off course. And if you've ever gotten lost before, you know that having bad directions is a super frustrating experience. The same goes for bad website navigation.  

Remove Non-User Friendly Technology and Features
Particularly Flash, auto-playing music and videos, as well as, PDFs—each impede on positive visitor experiences.  There's been a concerted effort in the technology industry to retire Flash due to its unreliability and insecurity. Moreover, Flash content is unreadable on mobile devices and requires desktop visitors to download/install a plugin to view. Regarding auto-playing music and videos, it's not only jarring, but also off-putting if you happen to be in a public space. And lastly, the use of PDFs can be problematic if not implemented usefully, as they are notoriously difficult to read on mobile devices.  

Make Sure Your Mobile and Tablet Friendly
And speaking of mobility, you need to ensure that your website is fully functional and visible on smartphones and tablets.  Did you know that Google penalizes websites that are not mobile friendly? Unfortunately, there are many websites that have not made the adjustment, which adversely impacts both where they appear in search results and consumer experience.  Not accounting for mobile users is a sure-fire way of losing potential customers.      

Use Large and Inviting Photos
A picture is worth a thousand words and that value is measured in trustworthiness and reputability. That's why it's imperative to make an emotional appeal to your visitors through the use of inviting imagery.  Think about when you're booking a hotel—properties with alluring photos resonate over those that don't.  Clear, crisp images with quality lighting and interesting angles can make the difference in converting a website visitor to an actual customer.

Make Use of Website Analytics
Okay it sounds super technical but it's really not.  What it means is that you should have some sort of mechanism on your website that measures how well (or poorly) your content resonates with visitors. Something that shows how many people are coming to your site, how they're getting there, and what areas of the site they're engaging with. It may sound overwhelming, but rest assured, there is a tool that will help you to gather all of this information and more; it's called Google Analytics. Google Analytics is a free tool that opens a treasure trove of valuable data; seeing what works and what doesn't, so you can make updates accordingly and repeat as necessary. I liken it to a vehicle tune up. You need to routinely take your car in for maintenance to keep it running smoothly, the same can be said for your content. Your website should be monitored and changed routinely to ensure optimal performance year-over-year.

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