How do you know your website is actually effective? These days, anyone can do it. WordPress, Muse, and Squarespace all make it easy to build a site, but that doesn’t mean they make it easy to build a good one.
Unfortunately, it’s easy to design a site that isn’t anywhere near as effective as you’d like. According to Devin Duncan, there are six common mistakes people make when designing their site. If your page features any of following — as outlined in Devin’s course Making Your Website Work For You — you should seriously consider fixing the issue or eliminating the problem as quickly as possible.
Paying a web designer to create your site is fine, but only if you can maintain it yourself. If the site and the platform used to build it require knowledge outside of your existing skillset, you will soon find yourself unable to service the site and keep it up-to-date.
If you’re running a non-ecommerce site, a popular platform is WordPress. To date, there are more than 72.5 million WordPress sites. While it does have a reputation for being especially great for blogging, the platform has expanded far past that — and is now a complete content management suite. The WordPress content management system (CMS) is easy to use, with intuitive features that allow you to make quick changes to content and install helpful plug-ins with minimal training required.
We’ve all landed on a site where we simply don’t know where to click first. You might have come to buy one product, but were instantly disoriented by an array of buttons, promotions, and obstacles in your way. Like a physical store that won’t stop bombarding you with salespeople and distracting advertisements, a website without focus is distracting and frustrating to your visitors.
The solution: keep it simple. Guide your visitor to what you want them to see.
This end result can be attained by thinking about what Devin calls your “benefit focus.” Any message you place on your site needs to enforce the benefit a user will receive by performing the stated action. Looking above again, there are clear benefit focal points — credentials, a “licensed product” logo, and the “why visit” is immediately answered — custom apparel.
If you were to visit their site, you’d find a bit more clutter at the bottom of the page, but that’s where it belongs — like a newspaper, all the important information is “above the fold” — the area you can see without scrolling down the page. If you need to give details — links to social media, contact information, etc — do so at the bottom.
Another mistake people often make is not spending enough time determining which pages are most important on their site. Here is when the 80/20 comes into play. The 80/20 rule asserts that 80 percent of your traffic will be driven by 20 percent of your site. Basically, you need to determine where 80 percent of your traffic is going and highlight those pages, which will help minimize the “calls to action” (CTAs) on your homepage. These CTAs are essentially highlighted attention-drawing links.
If you give the customer fewer immediate choices, then you’re guiding them where you want them to go.
It’s crucial to tell the visitor why THEY are going to benefit from shopping with you. Tell the visitor what you are going to do for THEM.
If you’re a photographer, you might give your “about me” an angle which not only lists your accomplishments, but targets them at the viewer. So, you didn’t just win those photography awards, but you won them because you care about making the best product possible for your customers.
Choose your layout carefully, and peruse other award-winners to see what they’ve done. If you go the route of using a platform, you may want to shell out a few bucks for a custom theme. WordPress has lots of freebies, but if it looks like you could have put the site up overnight you might want to reconsider the look. Lots of good themes are available at Woothemes and Themeforest. Sometimes you just have to spend money to make it back.
Getting back to that physical store analogy, how often does a retail outlet change its layout? Constantly, and often due to feedback the company has gathered – they want to streamline too, and your site is your store. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to conceive of where it’s going wrong — you built it, you know it, and you can navigate that shopping cart — it’s easy, right?
Start collecting data. Now. And the easiest way to do this is with Google Analytics — super easy to set up and start generating customizable reports and incredibly detailed stats. Even if you don’t want to start using it, get it set up now and let it collect data. It’ll just keep doing it until you decide what you want. Whether you’re trying to determine your 80/20 ratio, get an idea of where people are clicking in from or out to, or any number of statistics, Google Analytics will help you figure out how to improve your site.
There are two big things to take away from these six problems: use a platform that you can command, and simplify. Some of the best websites in the world are minimalistic and don’t force your attention to dart around like mad. Treat your website like a retail location, or gallery, or shop — make sure someone who walks in the door is greeted kindly and guided to get what they need.