Raise your hand if you haven’t touched your website in over three years. No need to be shy or embarrassed; 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 effect 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 An outdated website with stagnant content negatively impacts customer perception, which damages your credibility.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.
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, which is a tall order, but not insurmountable.
Small Business Website Checklist
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.
Professionally Designed Logo
Your logo is the most important and recognizable component of your company identity, it is your business' signature. 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.
Clear and Legible Logo Application
Whether you have a logo designed for you or have an existing one, you'll want to make sure that it's legible, no matter where it appears on your website. Your logo should always contrast against the background upon which it appears and remain easy to read no matter the size and space it's placed in. A professional Graphic Designer can help you create an iconic logo that meets all of your color and sizing needs.
'Matches' Your Brand Identity
Your website should seamlessly fit into your brand's identity system. A brand identity system is a fancy way of saying that, wherever your branding appears, everything looks connected. Whether it be the fonts used on your store signage, the photos in your brochures, your company colors; even down to the aesthetic of the furniture in your establishment–all of these elements come together to create a cohesive and distinct look.
Large Captivating Lead Image
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.
Well Organized and Functional
Is the content on your homepage organized where information is quick and easy to find? Does everything work as expected? 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.
Actionable Value Proposition
Your website copy should appeal to visitors by differentiating your business from your competitors; motivating potential customers to engage and do business with you. But how do you do it? The best place to begin, is to actually ask your customers what resonates with them and incorporate those insights. You can send out an online survey or assemble an informal focus group where patrons read your copy and give their honest feedback. If you have trouble crafting the right message, consider hiring a Copywriter who can expertly balance your thoughts with business goals and customer needs; striking the right tone of voice for your audience.
Optimize for Search
Writing effective copy is just the tip of 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.
Clear and Explicit Labels
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 read on mobile devices.
Mobile and Tablet Ready
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 usage is a sure-fire way of losing website visitors. Links are hard (if not impossible) to click, requiring potential customers to incessantly pinch, zoom and turn their devices in order to read website content. The easiest way to resolve the issue is to have a website that is responsive or adaptive. This guide doesn't delve into the particulars of each (that requires an entire blog post of its own), but there are a number of resources in which you can research and determine which is best for you. To get you started, there are a few useful links listed at the end of this post.
Use of Large and Inviting Photos
A picture is worth a thousand words and that value is measured by 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.
Well Designed Icons & Illustrations
Draw attention to your content and impress your visitors with the use of icons and illustrations that compliment your color scheme. There are a number of companies where you can purchase these graphics like The Noun Project, iStock, Shutterstock and 123RF; they will, however, require some tweaking before they can be used on your website. Not to worry, you can enlist the help of a Graphic or Web Designer to help you with the formatting. Designers can also create personalized graphics for your company that add even more sophistication and distinctiveness to your website.
Implementation 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.