Your small business website needs some immediate attention. How do we know? Because that is the nature of a website. You cannot create it one time and then trust it to work indefinitely. Your business site is the signboard that customers follow to your door. You may think of it as being like the 20-foot-by-30-foot billboard next to the highway on the outskirts of town, but it’s actually more like a needle in a haystack. Yours is one of more than 625 million operating today.
The cure for a non- or under-performing website is a redesign that focuses on user experience. Here are fixes for three of your most important pages:
The Home page. This is the most important page on your site, and that’s why the home page often gets wrested out of the hands of those who would like to use it to provide clearly written content. Instead, large portions of the page get taken over by marketing people who want to use big photos and big headlines. That’s the wrong approach. This page is the welcome mat for visitors. It explains who you are in terms that focus on visitor needs. Make sure people who land on this page can quickly and easily grasp what you are all about. Take the time to craft a short tagline that explains what your Company is all about.
Focus the content of this page on one primary audience, suggests Anne Holland, in a column for Chief Marketer. Even if your visitors represent various constituencies, Holland recommends devoting 80 percent of the Home page to the needs of your main audience. Use clickable buttons in unobtrusive places or live links at the bottom of the page to help your other audiences get to their own pages.
Do include a Search box, and make it at least 25 characters wide. As Sunny Popali of Tempo Creative explains in a blog post, “Online visitors are impatient and they are always trying to find something that cuts short the action steps. Search boxes allow visitors to search for the accurate info that they are looking for by just writing a phrase or word…”
Use your reports from Google Analytics to find out what search terms people are using to find your site and to find items on your site. Use these search terms for your navigation bar. Holland points out that your own staff might use entirely different search terms than customers do, so eliminate all searches that come from your own IP addresses before you do your analysis.
Remember that many of your site’s visitors don’t open the window wide, so keep your important information high on the page and reserve the left-hand side of the page for the most useful links.
The Contact Us page. This is where your customers reach out to you for help. Make it easy for them to connect. Keep the number of form fields to a minimum. One study showed that reducing the number of form fields from four to three increased conversion rates by almost half.
Also, don’t ask for phone numbers and don’t ask for any sensitive information. Rather, strive for trust, not information gathering. “Insisting that the user insert dashes for a phone number, or making irrelevant fields mandatory, doesn’t create trust, it creates friction and unease,” wrote Chuck Longanecker, CEO of Digital Telepathy, on that same Quick Sprout blog post.
He had another sensible suggestion that is, if not counterintuitive, at least a non-traditional approach to web design:
Design for mobile first. “If you’ve ever filled out a form on an iPhone you know how painful each additional field can be. Thinking mobile first also drives important user interface decisions, such as whether you put field labels above or to the left of your form elements, and what you set as your default options for certain fields,” he wrote.
Blogger Ben Snyder of A Better User Experience has more radical ideas. He suggests asking questions to get the visitor thinking about the product you sell, and only at the very end of the form, asking, “How would you like to be contacted? (phone, email)” and “What’s your name?”
Product pages. Move away from the generic to descriptions that convey your site’s uniqueness. Use original content, not what your supplier furnishes. Add unique photos and videos. All this helps in search engine optimization (SEO) as well as in conversion, aka selling products. These suggestions are from a Search Engine Watch article by Jeff Slipko that also offers this idea: As Amazon does, list related products (“Customers who bought this product also bought…”). If that doesn’t actually increase your sales, at least it will keep people on your site a little longer, because keeping up with the Joneses is as old a tendency as the consumer culture.
If you are like most small business owners who are experts on their products and services and realize that even the best website advice is falling upon one’s own deaf ears, perhaps a trusted web partner would be just what the doctor ordered? Why not talk to an expert who can efficiently, and affordably, address every single one of your web needs. Newtek, The Small Business Authority can help.