Your website is a critical component in your sales and marketing initiatives and therefore your business. It is an extension of your company and most of the time one of the first touchpoint for your prospects and customers so it needs to be reviewed consistently to make sure it meets the needs of the company and is achieving the expected results.
Just as you schedule quarterly or yearly employee performance reviews, it is a good practice to take time to do a performance review on your site regularly.
Here are 9 things that can help you gauge if your website is ready for prime time or if it is time for Extreme Makeover Website Edition.
1. Loading Speed.
Users are inpatient. If they have to wait more than a few seconds for your website to load, they’re moving on to the next one and you will loose potential customers this way. Load speeds have to do with issues such as with your hosting provider, your content and coding techniques.
2. Four Second Identification.
Can you identify what your website is about in the first 4 seconds? Once the users gets to your website, you have very little time to capture his/her attention. They need to be able to understand the general idea of what your business is about so that they can decide whether they are in the right place or if they should look somewhere else for the information they are seeking. In analytics this is usually seen as the bounce rate, which is visitors who got to your site but left without continuing to a different page.
3. Clarity of purpose.
Ok, so the visitor (potential customer or client) decided to stick around and check out your products and services. Is the information you are providing clear and relevant? Are you providing actionable intelligence? Is your website clear about what your business does, the products or services it offers and how you can acquire them?
4. Problem Solving Ability.
Remember that people go to your site because they are trying to solve a problem and you might have a solution for them. This needs to be very clear and upfront. The visitor wants to know, can your products or services solve my problem or fulfill my need, make sure to address that in a clear and concise way.
Have you ever gone to Ikea? If you have then you’ll know they do a great job of getting you in the door, leading you through the store and making sure you are experiencing what they want you to experience. It is harder to just wander around than it is to follow the path they’ve provided for you. They make sure you see every little bookcase, chair and table before you make it to the checkout counter. (Now good luck putting it all together once you get home, but that’s another story).
Your website needs to do the same thing. You want to guide the user through the sales cycle up until they either purchase something or take some sort of action in the form of downloading a white paper, setting up a trial account, submitting their information, etc. Provide a path for the user so that they don’t just wander around your site.
Make it simple for users to find what they are looking for and to get there easily. Good navigation is critical for conversions. If a user feels confused or lost in a website, good luck getting them to stay. Navigation not only involves your main menu, it also includes sub-navigation, breadcrumb navigation (which tells you were you are and how you got there) and sitemap.
Avoid at all cost what is usually referred to as Mystery Meat Navigation and make sure the navigation titles are clear. Users don’t want to have to guess what you actually meant with your “clever” navigation.
I enjoy sushi and so does my family, so I went to the website of our go-to sushi place in Dallas to place an order and lo and behold found a great example of mystery meat navigation. Sushi Zushi has great sushi and I eat there often (try the salmon tower), but their website is another thing. I’ll leave the flash intro and page discussion for another post and will focus on their navigation. If you can tell me what I should expect under the nav item labeled “Wisdom” and how it relates to sushi please let me know. Or how about “Passage” or “Dialect”.
Don’t confuse your customer.
7. Look and feel.
Design of a website is critical in how a user or client will perceive your organization. Through design you can inspire confidence and trust, expertise, company size, target audience, etc. It is the design that will provide that initial 4 second impression (see point 2) that will want people to hang around and check out all of your wonderful content or will make them run for the hills. Would you go to visit a client in your pajamas or right after a gym workout? Unless you’re Hugh Hefner or a personal trainer you probably put your best face forward and you dress according to what your client or audience is expecting. If you’re visiting a law firm most likely you will show up in a suit and tie, but if your prospects tend to be college students who are into surfing a t-shirt and sandals might be appropriate. Your website needs to make the audience you’re trying to engage with like they belong and are in the right place.
8. Brand Consistency.
Does your website have a very different messaging, color scheme or overall look and feel than your company brochure or email marketing campaigns? We tend to see that often when a company takes an ad-hoc approach to marketing. All your customer touch-points need to enhance and provide continuity to your messaging and brand in order to provide a cohesive brand experience.
9. Sticky Content.
You’ve probably hear the phrase “content is king”. This still holds true and it is what will keep your audience on your site after that 4 second impression. If you provide good, actionable content in a consisten basis, users will have a reason to come back. Don’t skimp on content and make sure you’re creating content in the form of blog posts, white papers, videos, articles, news items, etc. This also provides you with information and content to share on social networks like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+.
Good content is one of the main drivers of great SEO results, but make sure you are including the search terms people would most likely use to look for you on Google or Bing.
So how did your website do? If you need help in evaluating your site or would like to explore ways to achieve better results with your online initiatives, send us a note.