We get a lot of clients coming to us when the original designer disappears or the in house designer gets so busy with their real job that the company decides to outsource. When we take on a new client, there are three essentials for a business web site that we go over with them:
- Look. Too many people stop with just this basic tenet of web design: having a nice look. What does it mean to have a nice look? The elements of the site need to flow together. There should be a cohesive look to the site with a logo and color scheme that build and reinforce the brand. A clean, simple site is more attractive and more likely to engage your web visitors. Take your logo (or create one if need be) and use the colors and font to determine other key elements. When choosing colors and images or photos, consider your target market and what they are attracted to.
- Usability. We’ve seen way too many sites that look fantastic but aren’t user-friendly. If you want to build a site that actually helps your business, it needs to be usable. Building a user-friendly site means the first question you need to ask yourself is, what do you want people to do? If the goal is to get the visitor to make a purchase, the navigation and purchasing experience need to be very easy to accomplish and should make it clear how to add something to your cart, how to proceed to check out, etc. If the goal is to get someone to call you, make sure you have the phone number as the call to action. I often tell the story of the customer who said his goal was to educate the consumer . . . “well ultimately I want them to call me”, he said. “Where’s your phone number?” I replied.
- have a search friendly site. Search Engine Optimization is an ongoing task that can become quite expensive. But every web site and every page on a web site should be search-friendly. This simply means to keep in mind your key words as you write the content, name images, and create meta-tags. The Internet is not a field of dreams. If you build it, you also have to market it and provide ways for people to know what you’re about. If you use your key words in your site properly, you’ll have a search-friendly site that will help to drive more people to it.
Search-Friendliness. Having a nicely designed, usable site gets you no where unless you also
Once you have established your site on the Internet and have traffic coming to your site, what do you do? Your site must be usable.
First question to ask yourself: What do I want people to do? Put another way, the question can be “What are the expected outcomes?” It isn’t always “more sales” but that might be your answer. It might also be more newsletter subscribers or perhaps more blog comments or even more requests for information.
Once you have determined the desired outcome, you can begin to plan around it. Each page should have one desired outcome for maximum usability. The next step is then to determine how all the pages fit together into one cohesive site. For example, if you are a realtor selling homes, you probably want to move one group of people towards the buyer’s information pages and another group of people to the seller’s information. Once a prospective home seller is in the right section (the expected outcome of the home page was to move buyers to buyers’ info and sellers to sellers’ info) the goal of one page might be to request an evaluation of the home’s value. Another page might be intentioned to show ranges of prices for homes in an area and then ask them to call for a detailed analysis.
The next step, the one that is often skipped, is to test it. If you are indeed a realtor, get some sellers to go through your site while you watch. Find out if they can indeed accomplish what you want them to. Then get a buyer to go through your site. Give them a specific task to accomplish. See if they can do it. If the testing has good results, pat yourself on the back and launch. If the results aren’t so good, you probably need to go back and repeat steps 1 and 2 until you get the desired results.
Just because you “hit it” with your site and get the results you want, don’t stop looking at how you can make it even better.
Have you ever tested your web site to see if it actually works? We’ve seen some beautifully designed web sites that just don’t work. This goes back, in part to my last blog on having a Call to Action on each page. But it also goes beyond that. Once you have a call, you have to determine if people can actually accomplish it.
A couple of years ago, we decided that since we want people to call us, we should move our phone number from being buried in the footer of the page up to shouting it in the header. Within a week I had confirmation from a new customer that having the phone number up high and large helped us land the job. That’s mean by web site usability testing. Can people actually do what you want them to do?
We ran a Pay Per Click campaign for a customer for awhile. He wasn’t getting the desired results (more sales as it is an ecommerce site). We were getting him more clicks to the correct page but when we looked at the page, we saw that the “Buy Now” button was way down on the page, after a long list of products. People – CUSTOMERS – weren’t buying because they couldn’t figure out how to do so.
A great way to think about web site usability testing is Steve Krug’s favorite line: “Don’t Make Me Think!”. If visitors to your web site have to think, they’ll likely go away. If, on the other hand, the next step is obvious, they’ll likely take it.
So take a minute and go through your site, or better yet, get a real live customer to go through your site. Ask them if it makes sense to do whatever it is that you want them to do. If you want a real professional look at your web site, we can conduct a usability test but you can do a lot of testing on your own.
OK, once you’ve got a plan (the goals for your web site) and you have a marketing plan (what will drive people to your site?) its time to figure out what you want people to do when they get to your site. This is a pretty basic concept and yet one that is often overlooked.
There are various actions that you, as a web site owner, may want your visitors to do on any given page or process of pages. These actions will make the most sense if we start with: “I want the visitor to”
- call for a quote or appointment
- fill out a form requesting more information
- join my newsletter
- buy something from my online store
- create a profile on my blog
- contribute their expertise on my forum
- tell three friends about my site
This is by no means a complete list but hopefully helps you think about what you want to accomplish with your site. Once you understand WHAT you want people to do, you can begin to figure out HOW they should do it.
Once I asked a client whose ad campaign we were managing what he wanted the visitor who clicked through to a particular page to do. He replied “I want to educate them.” I waited a few seconds and finally he came out with “Eventually I want them to call me.” That made my next question very easy – “Where is your phone number?” I asked. “Oh.”
The next day he had not only put his phone number very prominently on the page, he had also created a page that let visitors ask for more information online. The point of the story is that once you have determined what you want people to do on your page, make sure it is easy for them to do it.
We do a lot of web site redesigns. Often the goal is to spiffen up the image of the site with engaging colors and graphics. But we also end up making the site more usable as well. And it is amazing how many of us (yes, we’ve made some of these mistakes as well) don’t design usable sites. Here are a few tips to make your site usable (easy for your visitors to use):
Keep all information within 3 clicks – 1 click away is even better. Our newsletter used to be buried down a few clicks to actually see the current newsletter. Guess what? We didn’t get too many people looking at our newsletter. Since we made the newsletter accessible from every menu, readership has gone up dramatically. And that is a priority for us.
Tell your visitors what they get, not what you do. Instead of a “We’ve been in business for over 10 years serving this region. We strive to serve our customers with the best service.” the first page should tell visitors how they will benefit from your goods or services like this “Need more customers? Need a web site that sells your goods? Would you like to spend less time on the phone and more time in front ofÂ your customers? EduCyber can help.” The goal is to phrase your offerings as benefit statements – how will your customers benefit from what you’re offering?
Include a call to action on EVERY PAGE. Simple yes. But take a look at your existing web site. Does every page has some kind of call to action? One of the first questions I ask is what do you want people to do on this page? Frequently the answer is “I want them to call me.” “So where’s your phone number?” I ask. Don’t make your visitor have to look for ways to contact you. Provide your phone number or email address or, if you’re in retail, an address with a link to a map.
Adhere to the KIS principal (Keep It Simple) by avoiding technical terms or, if you must use them, providing definitions or explanations. The world of web site design and marketing for example, is filled with terms like SEO and Meta-tags and cpanels but we avoid those terms or explain that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a process used to get your site ranked high in search engines like Google.
So if you have questions or would like more information on how to make your web site more usable, contact Brian at 720-275-4646 or at email@example.com.