If you’re in business, your first line of business is to ensure you have a sustainable web presence (e.g. an online storefront). Not only do shoppers rely on the web for product research, they are likely to make their purchase online before heading to a brick and mortar store. E-commerce is here to stay – the future for online business has never been brighter.
The latest studies indicate that $155 billion worth of consumer goods were bought online last year, a far larger portion of offline sales were influenced by online research (Forrester). It’s estimated that $917 billion worth of retail sales last year were “Web-influenced” (Forrester).
How many times have you searched for a product or service online, landed on a site and couldn’t hit the back button quick enough? The site may have been impossible to navigate, cluttered, or just plain ugly. Given the sheer numbers at which consumers are logging onto their mobile phones, iPads and laptops to do their research and shopping, this should indicate to business owners the importance of a user-friendly, aesthetically pleasing website.
A lack of capital, expertise or time is not really an excuse, given the number of free tools available online. We know that your best friend, husband or dog won’t tell you how horrible your website really is – so we’ve enlisted the experts to unveil why your website doesn’t make dollars or sense.
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1. You don’t fully understand your demographic/audience. Every audience is different; understanding their online interests and behaviors is critical in deciding how best to market your business to them. Understanding your target demographic requires starting with a blank slate. With website design, it’s more than just creating a site that looks nice, you want to engage your audience and create an environment that fosters interaction.
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2. You fail to employ the most current trends and technologies into your site. People want to shop at the convenience of their homes, therefore small businesses need a real presence online and a user friendly shopping interface.
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3. Make sure your site is designed and developed with SEO best practices in mind. You may have a beautiful website that displays your company’s unique selling proposition and branding guidelines, however, it is not search engine friendly and therefore doesn't generate relevant web traffic. This includes people building flash-only websites, websites with non-SEO friendly URLs or creating websites that only have imagery and no readable text.
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4. A lack of Design and Content hierarchy is often the culprit behind many small business owners’ frustrations with their website conversions. Instead of featuring best-selling products, solutions and contact information, many business owners overwhelm visitors with product noise instead of creating an online experience that engages a visitor and builds loyalty.
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5. Simple: You don’t have any clear goals for your site. It's fundamental, but the majority of the small businesses who contact our agency for a web site do not have any objectives for the project. For example, selling products online or lead generation are very clear goals. However, when we ask "What purpose(s) will the web site serve?" many small business owners freeze up and answer blindly with "I don't know. I just know I need a site."
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6. An effective website needs to Inspire, Inform, and Engage. Most small businesses build brochure sites that inform a very general audience but do not clearly inspire or entice engagement from each user base, leading the user to become bored and leave without asking for more information or calling. If the path and call to action is not intensely clear, the user will not act… and a contact page is not a call to action.
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7. You don’t value your business, your brand or your customers. By not hiring a web professional to create a site that is geared towards the best interest of the business, many entrepreneurs would rather find the lowest bidder. This can result in a lost message, a "right now" site, and generic template. The market is becoming very saturated, and proper consideration and thought still needs to be taken when representing your brand.
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8. Many entrepreneurs fail to recognize that the design and structure of a site is vital not only website development, but in search engine optimization as a whole. If your basic architecture is in any way flawed, no amount of excellent content or inbound links will you achieve the rankings your desire – the key here is to keep things simple and relevant. It’s crucial to understand that internal structure is paramount in the aim to maximize your site’s organic rankings.
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9. Cost efficiency is important, regardless of whether you have a bank full of venture capital or you're working on a shoestring budget. At the same time, your presence online should be taken seriously. The best websites are not necessarily the most expensive. Google "web design" along with your city ("web design Los Angeles") and look for a company that openly lists their prices and has a mission statement that fits your goals. Also use LinkedIn to connect with local web designers.
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10. Think in terms of what the user wants and needs from their website. The user does not want to be entertained with music playing or wait for a slow-loading website. Upon landing on the home page the user should be able to instantly learn who you are and what you do, and from there be able to quickly and easily find the information they may seek thereafter."
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11. Some entrepreneurs focus on themselves versus the end user. When it comes to sales, conversions and content the best way to achieve results is by focusing on the "WIFM" or "what's in it for me" as the end user.
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12. Don't forget about lead generation. It's one thing to make a site look pretty — it's another to design your site with lead generation in mind. Your website is meant to drive business. Make sure it's easy to find contact information and for a lead to submit their information through a form. Make sure your call to action is strong.
Photo Credit: © Yuri Arcurs