“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” ~ Benjamin Franklin. Old Benny was right on this one. Whether your website needs a facelift or a complete redesign, without solid goals your website is doomed to fail. Having a solid plan will allow your design and content to fall into place based on these goals. You need a foundation before you can add the wallpaper.
2. Create A Story
Goals set the foundation, but how do you present it? Setting aside design decisions for the time being, the real meat of your site should tell a story. What is your message? Who is your audience? What do you want to tell them? Do you have an overall intended goal? What sort of calls to action do you want to promote? What is the payoff for a visitor? Ask yourself these questions when trying to create your story.
3. Strong Branding Image
That awesome logo you finally decided was “the one” needs to be at home on your website. Use the same and/or complementary colors and fonts throughout your website to reinforce brand recognition. If your designer hasn’t created a Branding Standards document, create one and determine your complementary fonts and/or colors at that time.
4. Mobile Friendly
Why? Because 60% of all Internet Browsing is done on a mobile device. That’s a number you can’t ignore, and if you do, chances are your site looks terrible and visitors will leave your page for a competitor whose website is responsive and mobile friendly.
5. Clean Design
Clutter doesn’t work well on the Internet. Paul Boag explains, “White space is a fundamental building block of good design. It’s one of the first things any visual designer is taught. However, to many website owners it is simply a waste of space that could be used to better promote their messages, services or products.” It is a fundamental website design principle because it improves legibility, comprehension, attention, and tone (Source:Boagworld.com).
6. Quick Loading Website
2 out of 5 visitors to your website visitors will leave immediately if any webpage takes longer than 3 seconds to load – 1/2 of internet users expect a webpage to load in less than 2 seconds. In other words, unless you have a fast website you’re losing visitors. Use these free tools to boost your load speeds and improve your rankings: Pingdom, Yslow, and Google’s PageSpeed Insights.
7. Easy Navigation
Another important feature of a good website is navigation. Many website owners fail to include well-structured pages or clear navigation tabs that lead visitors to relevant sections of their website. Organize the information of your website in a simple to understand way. Think of the general path you’d like a visitor to take. Creating a site map or tree diagram of your pages may be the best way to visualize the path you want your visitors to take.
8. Information Architecture
For an in-depth look at what Information Architecture is, start here. In a nutshell, it’s the art of how, why, and where you place your content on your site. These decisions should be based on your story, goals, and later, your visitors’ behavior. Look to your web developer, marketer, and anyone with in-depth knowledge of your product to help determine where your site’s content should go.
9. Identify Your Audience
This relates back to your earlier tips on Establishing Goals and Story building. You should know your audience at this point and speak to them with every element of your website. Consider color, language, and calls to action that would entice your audience and encourage them to act.
10. Clearly State: Who You Are and What You Do
This is an often overlooked element when building a website. You get lost in the details and forget the most basic information. Clearly state who you are and what you do. More specifically, call out what makes you different, followed with a call to action that takes visitors to further information.
11. Easy To Find Contact Information
How many times have you been on a website only to have to search like a needle in a haystack for the contact number and/or email? No fun, is it? Chances are, if they stumbled upon your site or are comparing you to competitors, they won’t click on a second page to contact you. Make your contact information clearly visible on your page, either at the top or around your header, as well as in the footer on every page of your site. For those mobile users, make your phone number a click to call link, for added ease of use.
12. Calls to Action
CTAs don’t have to animate, or even be well designed graphics. A Call to Action can be anything that promotes action. Your click to call phone number, a link to a contact page within your copy or, yes, a graphic on your sidebar will encourage clicks and promote action. Use CTAs to guide a user’s action based on your overall goals for the website.
13. Testimonials / Case Studies Show Off
Show your new visitors that you have some clout. Ask current or past clients for testimonials on their experience working with you. If you’ve developed a larger project, consider creating a Case Study of the project. The goal here is to show off the results. Lead with numbers, showcase your work, and highlight the results.
14. Offers and Freebies
Who doesn’t like free stuff? If you offered a free blue shirt for no reason whatsoever, you’d probably get a ton of sign-ups, but what’s the payoff? Sure, the visitor received their shirt, but did you achieve anything from a business standpoint? Let’s hope you at least put your company logo on it. The point is, you want to offer a relevant giveaway. If it’s an ebook, make it about a service you offer or tips and tricks your potential customers can actually use. The key here is value.
SEO is the art of having your site come up in the search engines when your target audience types in keywords relating to your products and services. Relevant keywords should be implemented on every page, as well as good quality incoming backlinks. This will result in improved search engine page rankings, which in turn can generate more targeted website traffic. Understanding what keywords your customers use and then using these words on your site to improve your visibility in the search engines is another key to a successful website. If you need help with this, you can always contact us or learn about our SEO services.
16. Social Media Integration
Building a community for your business is one of the best investments you can make. Start with the networks you know and are active on – the most common being Facebook and Twitter. Including a Facebook “Like” from your business Facebook page or a Twitter follow button will allow visitors to connect with you through other media. Place social media share buttons prominently on your website for increased reach. Of course, if you need any further tips, check out our previous blog posts and/or services.
17. Email Marketing
One of the most underused lead generators is your mailing list. Include a sign-up form on your website and keep them up to date with your latest news, events and offers. Whether they are new or recurring customers, this is your audience! These people are interested enough to sign up and receive news and information about you or your products. Keep them interested!
A secure site is often an overlooked aspect of website building, until the whole thing comes crashing down. Perhaps a pesky bug has worked its way in through a plugin or maybe your site was hacked because you had a generic user name or password. Whatever the case may be, it’s better to have and not need, than need and not have – down websites are never fun. We recommend WPEngine. You can also use various tools to check the status of your site such as http://www.isitdownrightnow.com/
19. Speak to Your Visitors – Not Your Ego
Testimonials, Case Studies and Awards you’ve won are a great way to show off your accomplishments, but should not lead the story. Avoid bragging about what makes you different and show it with numbers or real facts. The potential customer seeking your services doesn’t care what your golf handicap is. Save that for when you take them out golfing after closing.
20. Measure Your Results
A website is never really “complete.” It’s an ongoing project that adapts and changes with your customers, goals, and other outside effects. There are a number of free tools you can use to measure your results on how your website is doing. If you have a Gmail address, you can use Google Analytics, Google webmaster tools, and/or open site explorer. All these tools will give you a glimpse into your website’s performance and allow room for improvement.
21. Small Step Improvements
“It is better to take many small steps in the right direction than to make a great leap forward only to stumble backward.” ~ Old Chinese proverb. If your website is still a field of dreams, remember, a website is never truly complete. You may just need to make a few tweaks here and there before you see real results. Keep this in mind as you launch your site or rebuild and are not seeing the results you hoped to see immediately.
The above 21 steps should provide a solid direction for building upon your current or new website. Remember that no website project is ever complete. It’s a growing, evolving, changing medium, much like your business itself. Remember to focus on your goals and adapt how you convey your message based on your users’ behavior. There is no golden formula, but the above steps will lead toward improving your overall conversions from visitors to customers.