We talk a lot about how to get the most from your website. Our experts know all about how to use content effectively, how to make your site visually appealing and all about the background techy stuff that gets your webpages noticed by Google and other search engines. But, what about the things that are damaging your reach? What are you doing that makes your website less effective? Here are our top tips for what you need to change now, to get your website back on track.
1. Too similar to other sites…
Researching what works and what you find visually appealing is an essential first step in planning your website. Taking inspiration from websites you like, helps you to decide what you want to achieve with your own site. These are valuable stages in the planning and design phase. Being inspired is where it must end though. Lifting colour schemes and fonts is not going to help you create a stand out website.
2. Buried info…
Your home page is your shop window.
Think of how much effort and investment goes into those High Street storefronts. Everything from product placement to key information is right there. This is what your homepage must achieve. You have less than 8 seconds to convince someone to stay on your website, or to convert them into taking an action.
You need a clear description of what you do, demonstration of your expertise and key information such as contact details and opening times. If a visitor must click several times to find the basic info they’re looking for, they’ll likely not bother.
3. Too busy/cluttered pages
Designing a webpage is not just about what you want to tell your visitors, it’s also a technical process that takes account of what works visually and how people behave when a page appears. Then you have to consider how search engines view your pages too. The layout must be visually appealing, whilst technically hitting the mark. It’s better to separate information into subpages, rather than have too much going on one page.
Equally, don’t fear having empty space on a page. Proper use of empty space helps to guide your visitors to the important features you don’t want them to miss.
4. No social proof
This is such an important point that we wrote a whole blog post about it! As individuals we are naturally quite risk-averse. We need to know that we are spending our money on something worthwhile. This is why websites based solely on social proof, such as Trustpilot Checkatrade and Tripadvisor, are so popular. Including reviews about your business or service, listing your most popular blog posts and linking to your pages on sites like Trustpilot, are all good ways of using social proof. It’s an easy way to demonstrate that you can be relied upon to deliver what you promise.
5. Too much text
Google likes text. People like images. How do you balance the two, whilst still hitting your target reach for both categories? This can be a fine line to walk. The basic rule of thumb is to have regular breaks in text. Use lots of images to show off your products and services. Make your website human – don’t be afraid to feature you and your employees, doing their jobs. If you can get permission to use photographs of customers, using your products and engaging with you, that’s even better. (See social proof!) Pages that are pure text do not work. If you really need to say that much, you should consider turning that page into an evergreen blog post instead.
6. Not enough text
At this point you may be feeling like you can’t win, but don’t worry! When writing for a website there are several key points to consider, before you think about how many words you should use.
- Purpose – which of your customers’ needs does the page address?
- What are your key points? (Make a list.)
- What do you want visitors to do next?
- Do you have good supporting images? (If you don’t, get some.)
This process will help you, or your copywriter, to create the right number of words for the page. Anything from 300 – 450 is in the right ballpark, but of course there are exceptions. Your contact page will need fewer words, your blogposts more. The main thing is that each page is well-written, formatted and has a clear next step for them to follow.
8. Not mobile friendly
I know, you’re probably saying, “Well, duh!” and yes, we really shouldn’t have to say this any longer, so we’ll keep it short. More than half of web traffic comes from mobile devices – make sure your website is mobile friendly.
9. Poor SEO
Are you fed up of hearing about SEO? So many experts, so much advice… There’s a reason for that – it’s pretty high up on the scale of things you need to get right. SEO is not the dark arts, but if you want your website to be found easily and attract the right traffic, you need to give it your attention.
10. Slow and clunky DIY web-building platform
It’s so easy to get an ‘off the shelf’ website, premade and ready for you to populate with your information. You can click, drag and drop to your heart’s content, making a site that does the job adequately. The problem with these one-stop-shop web design platforms is that in order to make everything so easy for you to build your own site, they have huge amounts of code in the background to facilitate the process. This means the site can take longer to load. Of course, if that happens, the user experience can be impacted. No one wants to sit waiting for your website to load the payment page when they’ve decided to make that purchase…
We’re not saying never build your own website, but platforms such as WordPress, are a better option. The time investment may be greater, but it’ll be worth it in the long run. If your time is precious, calculate how much it would cost you to dedicate the time yourself, then consider spending that on a web designer and get a pro website from the very beginning.
The rule is – Don’t strive for ‘adequate’; aim to dazzle!
11. Designing for you, not your customers
In the customer service industry, there’s an important rule about processes. This is that all company processes should be designed for the benefit of your customers, not your staff. The same goes for websites. Always build a website with your customer at the forefront of the design. It doesn’t matter what your favourite colour, font, piece of music is; if they come together to create a web-based headache, they’re not going to appeal to your customers. Look at what is working for your competitors, speak with your target audience. Design for them.
12. Ignoring the ‘above the fold’ rule
What fold? Well, the same rule applies as if it were a paper. When your landing page hits the screen, is the important stuff immediately visible? If you have a huge image that takes up all the space, you’ve ignored the fold rule. On screen, the fold is where the visible screen ends. Anything below this point must be deliberately sought out. This means that anything ‘above the fold’ has to grab enough attention to make the rest of the information desirable
13. Poor spelling and grammar
This is another point that we really shouldn’t have to make, but it’s easy to forget. If a visitor to your website is faced with poor spelling and grammar, they will judge you. It’s important. If you claim that you do everything with “carful attention to detail” you just shot yourself in the foot. Proof read, spell check and get it right.
14. Jargon and acronyms
They make sense to you; they probably make sense to some, if not many, of your existing customers. Do they make sense to potential customers? If they don’t, you may as well be writing your copy in Klingon. Visitors who don’t understand what you’re talking about will click away. If you want to use an acronym, always put the full definition in there with the first use.
15. Scroll-y Moly!
This follows on from point 12, where we mentioned the importance of following the ‘above the fold’ rule. It’s a little bit more than that though, because even if your content above the fold is as gripping as the latest thriller by Grippy McGripface, the reader will not scroll to see the entirety of your offer if it’s 23 km long. Use subpages, split your content into sections, write a blog! Whatever you do, don’t expect someone to invest a huge amount of time scrolling to find the vital piece of information they came for.
To be honest, this list could be a lot longer and there are probably more things you could add, from websites you’ve visited. That’s the point – every website you visit is research and a lesson in what – and what not – to do with your own site. If you need more information about writing content, designing and building your website, or how to optimise your site and make it more effective, you can contact us here.