This article was contributed by Caroline Morris.
There are several factors that contribute to the success of your business: a great product or service, decent marketing and a bit of luck.
However, there is one more, crucial thing, which in this day and age should not be ignored. A website that visitors will love.
Of course, most businesses these days know that if they don’t have a website it’s almost as if they don’t exist at all. Nonetheless, many of them underestimate the importance of having a decent website.
The first thing most people do when searching for a service or a product is use a search engine. Then they click on the results which bring them to a specific website. Hopefully, it’s your website, and it’s at this point where your customer journey starts.
Everything that happens next, what they see on your website, is extremely important. Remember, your website is your virtual business card, marketing team, salesperson and customer service all rolled into one.
What they find on your website will determine their decision whether they want to contact you or buy your product or service. Even if you are not selling anything, for example, you run a blog or a news website, it’s still important. What they see here will help them decide if they want to come back.
So to make sure your visitors want to continue their journey with you, here are 5 things to focus on when creating or updating your website to make it as welcoming and user-friendly as possible.
1. Content Is King
When people first visit your website they don’t come across your friendly employee at the reception desk or your persuasive sales team to guide them, so you will need to make sure that the content they find on your website will do what your team usually does: grab their attention, provide information and explain.
That’s why it is so important to make sure your content is well written and, most importantly, is suitable for your target audience.
For example, if you provide insurance, remember that it is something most people take seriously, so avoid using slang or making jokes. What most people will be interested in is finding as much information as possible about available options. So give them that.
If, on the other hand, you sell cute dog beds, your potential customers will probably want to see as many pictures as possible. For most people it’s also quite a nice thing to buy, so you can let yourself be more playful in the tone you use.
No matter what type of business you run, there is one rule which applies to all － people visit your website to find information. So make sure you provide it. Don’t just place numerous sales slogans or repeat the same type of sentences over and over again. Provide your website visitor with useful and relevant information which will help them make a decision.
Think of the things most clients ask you when you speak to them directly. Do they want to know about the quality and materials you use, delivery options? Perhaps you provide a service they have never used before and they would like to know what the process looks like or how much time it takes.
Write down 10 questions you and your team hear most often when speaking to potential clients and make sure your website answers them. It doesn’t have to be an actual list of questions with answers included on your website. Just make sure that when describing your services or products you include the information that your clients are usually after.
Which brings us to the next important thing… Navigating your website.
2. Make It Easy To Navigate
Once you have good copy written for your website and you’ve made sure all the important information is included, it’s now time to design your website in the way that will make it easy for the visitor to find it.
The main rule is: keep it simple
Have you ever been to a website that had numerous tabs, several drop-down menus and lots of links which made your eyes hurt, gave you a headache and you didn’t know where to start?
Sometimes we try so hard to help visitors find what they are looking for that we overdo it by adding too many tabs and pages, and as a result, we create chaos. Then our visitors simply don’t know where to start or what to click on, and very often they just give up before really getting to know your business.
Here’s how to fix it:
- Start with a simple decision – what type of menu do you want? Choose one and stick to it. If you decide to have tabs at the top of the page, don’t add a menu on the side of the page.
- Your next step should be deciding on menu categories. You shouldn’t add more than 6 tabs or menu options. The essentials include: Home Page, Services/Products, About Us, Contact. You can add Frequently Asked Questions or another tab which you really think is important for your customers.
- If you want to create separate pages for different types of services or products you provide, you can create subcategories. But don’t go too crazy with this. One drop-down menu on the services tab is enough.
- Don’t add too many pages on your website. If you feel that for some reason you need that many pages to contain all you want to tell your customers, then you simply have too much to say. Think of the information your visitors need to find, not about all the things you want them to know. It’s not always the same thing.
- Some people find it difficult to give up on all the pages and information they want to share with their visitors. If that’s you, think about it this way － have you ever read the entire content of any website? If you have, then that website was most likely short, relevant and to the point. The rest you skimmed through and ignored. Your visitors will do the same – so don’t overwhelm them or scare them off.
3. Choose Your Style
In a way, this is similar to the first point and finding your tone of voice. The same rule applies when it comes to the design of your website.
The number one website mistake people make here is choosing a design they personally like, not the design that works for the type of business they run.
We can illustrate it using the example mentioned above. If you sell dog beds you can allow yourself to be playful, use colourful designs, add lots of pictures of happy dogs and your products. You can even use a funny font.
But if you sell insurance you should probably keep it more serious. Not boring! But appropriate. Most people take their life or house insurance seriously and they want people who sell them that insurance to take it seriously as well. So make sure your website shows them that you know what you are doing, that you and your team are reliable and they can trust you. Would you buy insurance from someone using a Comic Sans font? Probably not.
So think about the purpose of your website. The main goal of your website is to show a potential client who you are, what you do and how you do it. And you can express it by the content you use, style of your writing, colours, fonts and images. Try to choose a design that best represents your business and is appropriate.
If you have doubts, narrow down your options to 3 or 4 designs and ask your friends and colleagues for their opinion and feedback. Even if you don’t choose what they suggest, it’s good to have another person’s perspective and know how others perceive your website (and your company!).
And most importantly, think about your customers, your target audience. What do they have in common? What do they like and look for? Then show them with your website that they came to the right place.
4. Avoid Clichés
And this goes for everything you do on your website － your copy, your design, colours, images and everything you add to your website.
Your website is your chance to set your business apart from competitors, and makes you stand out from the crowd in the virtual world. So don’t be like everyone else in the industry; surprise your audience!
Don’t use phrases like “We are the number one..” or “In today’s fast-moving world” or “We understand that..”. Try to be original. Think of things that your audience hasn’t heard a million times before. If you want readers to listen, you have to start saying things that show your audience something new.
And the same goes for the rest of your design. If you sell baby accessories how about giving up on the blue and pink candy colours?
There are thousands of beautiful colour combinations out there and the fact that people in your industry don’t use them too often doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t either. Show some imagination and originality.
Being appropriate is not the same as being boring or unoriginal.
Here’s a little trick. Think about the most common clichés you regularly come across in your industry and try to think about something exactly opposite. You probably arrived at something very extreme. Now try to move 20% or 30% back towards the cliché. What could that be, where did you arrive?
For example, you sell baby clothes and everyone in your industry uses bunny images in pink colour combinations. What would be the opposite of that? A black cow? So what can we do with black, is there a way to make it work in a tasteful way? Babies don’t see colours in the first few months of their lives, maybe that’s something to work with?
If you think it’s too extreme, then what would be less extreme, a bit closer to pink on the scale? How about navy blue? Still too dark? How about dark purple?
Choose each option you arrive at and play with it in your mind and brainstorm. You don’t have to use all the ideas you come up with, but it doesn’t hurt to at least try to make them work in your head.
You can use that trick with almost anything when it comes to avoiding clichés, you just need to use your imagination.
5. VPS Hosting
There’s not much that users dislike more than slow websites. Choose the right type of hosting for your website to assure the pages are not taking ages to load and you can manage the traffic on your website.
As you probably know there are a variety of web hosting options available on the market today – shared hosting, dedicated server hosting, VPS, cloud hosting colocation and managed hosting. Finding the best option for you and your website depends on what type of level of customization on your server you are looking for, the amount of money you are willing to spend on it and the performance you want to achieve.
Virtual Private Server, or VPS for short, is probably one of the most popular hosting services website owners choose today. And that’s because VPS servers are in a way the middle ground between a shared server and a dedicated server. If you want more control but you don’t really need a dedicated (private) server yet, this might be the solution for you.
So what does it mean in practice?
VPS hosting is basically getting the best of the two worlds. It uses virtualization technology so that each website is hosted within its own space on the server, meaning that you are provided with your own private resources on a server which you share with multiple users. You also get more customization and storage space.
This is an especially good solution for website owners who might not have the technical knowledge or resources to manage their own server but are still looking for dedicated hosting.
It is also a much more cost-effective solution than many of the other options, and at the same time it’s more secure and stable than shared hosting.
Keep in mind that when choosing the best option for you, you should consider your website traffic as well. VPS hosting is a good option for medium-level traffic websites – you don’t need a fully dedicated server all to yourself just yet, but at the same time the limits of shared hosting plans are not enough for your website.
With all of these points mentioned and considered, it’s time for you to go on an adventure of creating your website. It will probably be a bit frustrating at times but remember that it is extremely important for your business to get it right. So take your time, don’t rush anything and most importantly think about your visitors and their needs. Good luck!
About the author: Caroline Morris is the PR Strategist at EAK Digital, a specialist blockchain PR agency.