A lot of business owners think of their websites as brochures. But treating your website like a listing in the digital version of the yellow pages is a huge mistake that can cost you valuable sales opportunities.
A good website does more than list your business name, provide your contact information and catalog your products. It has a lot of jobs: It builds trust. It educates your target audience. It tells a story and communicates your brand values. And if the design and usability of your website are strong, it will also nudge prospects through the sales funnel so they become customers.
Here are three ways to spot-check your business' website to make sure it's driving as much value as possible for your business:
1. Does it make a good impression on users?
No matter what mom says, looks DO matter, especially when it comes to your website.
It only takes people one-tenth of a second to form a first impression, according to the Association for Psychological Science. That means you have less than a second to impress visitors, to communicate what you do and to show that your business is trustworthy. If your website doesn't achieve this in literally the blink of an eye, those people will probably never do business with you.
A study by the University of Surrey found that people are more likely to use a website if they think it's credible. And their judgments on whether or not a website is credible are 75 percent based on a website’s overall aesthetics.
What makes for a credible design?
A professional logo
A cohesive look with consistent colors and fonts throughout
A clean layout with a clear hierarchy of information
Professional graphics or photographs
If your website was made with a drag-and-drop template or looks like it was updated piece-by-piece over the course of a decade, it probably isn't making the right impression on visitors. Solicit feedback from colleagues or a designer on what's working and where you're going wrong. Then, set aside some money for design updates or a total facelift.
2. Is it super easy to use?
Your website needs to be intuitive if it's going to be successful.
If it's not simple to use, visitors will leave and never come back. Around 88 percent of consumers say they go to another website if the first one they visit is at all confusing or difficult to navigate, according to eConsultancy.
How can you tell if your website is easy or difficult to navigate? There are lots of ways:
You can hire a designer to look it over for you
You can run it through an app that flags common errors
Or, the simplest option of all:
You can ask friends and family members who are unfamiliar with your website to complete some tasks
Watch over their shoulder as they navigate to specific pages, like a product category or a particular item that's a best-seller. If you have an e-commerce site, have them add it to their shopping cart. If you have a personal portfolio or a B2B website, have them try to contact you.
As a rule of thumb, visitors should be able to complete any of these tasks with a single click. If they struggle to complete these tasks quickly, or they can't find links to some of the pages, your website might need better navigation. This could be in the form of an updated main menu, a search function or sidebar that allows visitors to move through pages more intuitively.
3. Is it accessible?
Your website must also be easily accessible if it's going to be successful. That means people can find it with a basic search and view it on whatever device they're using.
Google recently announced that for the first time in history, more people are searching on mobile devices than desktops. To accommodate the growing population of mobile-first searches, it's taking mobile-optimization into consideration when choosing which websites ranking first in search results. Sites that look good and load quickly on smartphones and tablets will outperform older versions built primarily for desktop computers.
SEO is a good place to start improving your accessibility, but there are other ways to build your digital footprint, like social media and paid promotion. Both approaches create additional touch points through which visitors can find your site as they're browsing the web.
Your website isn't something you can afford to take for granted. It's often the first encounter someone has with your business, and their experience with it can make or break sales opportunities. Treat the design as an extension of your brand, the usability as a demonstration of excellent customer service, and the accessibility as proof of why you're the leader in your industry.