The Internet is well past its infancy and many (if not most) professionals realize the benefits and, often, the necessity of having a website for their business or organization. A good percentage of these people have gotten a website built (by themselves or through a web designer) but are not seeing the increase in the number of clients they were expecting. “Where did I go wrong?” they ask. “Is this Internet thing just one big scam?” Well, no, I think it’s pretty legitimate and here to stay – not to mention a very effective marketing tool when used properly. The problem is likely that their website wasn’t thought through properly when being designed and built and now it’s not getting the results they wanted. Sound familiar?
Many people know me as the King of Analogy (okay, I don’t have the crown yet, but I’m sure it’s coming). So, my analogy for this situation is that of quickly building a house, with cheap material, on a shoddy foundation. Once built, you might feel a brief sense of satisfaction, now that you’ve got a house, just like everyone else on the block does. But, within a year or two, it starts falling apart, not keeping you warm in the winter, looking pretty shabby, and you wish you had thought about what you really wanted in a house, done a bit of research, used quality building materials, and hired professionals to help build it.
So you’ve got your house that’s not quite living up to your expectations. In fact, is it a money pit? Maybe it’s time to do a walk-around and inspect the structure to see what could be better.
Okay, back to your website. Let’s take a look at it and see what may or may not be working, what could be improved, and decide if it’s even worth salvaging or if it’s time to completely start over.
First, and foremost, are you even getting visitors to your site? Take a look through the numbers in your web stats package or Google Analytics and see how many people are coming to your site. Does it seem like a reasonably decent number? (This is relative, of course.) Are the daily numbers staying fairly consistent or, hopefully, trending upwards? If you answered ‘no’ to one or both of these questions, you need to improve the traffic to your site. The main ways of doing so are by improving your site’s search engine optimization (SEO), increasing the number of incoming links, and by simply telling people about your site, verbally and on all of your advertising material (business cards, brochures, radio/TV commercials, etc.)
Next, take a look at the design of the site. Is it pleasing to the eye? More important, is it pleasing to other people’s (i.e., potential customers’) eyes? Take a survey of several trusted friends and colleagues to see what they honestly think. Ask them, “If you were looking to hire a _______, would you hire me, based on my website?”
Does the site look modern and professionally designed? Have a look at several other sites (especially those of reputable companies; not just your competitors’) and then take a look at yours. Are you proud of the way yours looks? If you’re in a business where appearance truly matters (especially if you’re selling something visual), does your website truly show off your talent and even enhance it?
At the very least, there should be nothing “wrong” with the way your site looks – missing images, things not aligned properly, ghastly colour combinations, and so on. And, the pages should load at a reasonable speed for your target audience.
Are people able to find what they’re looking for quickly? Can they navigate from one page to the next with ease? You might be surprised at the answers if you look at your site with a critical eye, as if you were coming to it for the first time.
Finally, take a good read through the copy (text) on every page of your site. Again, you might want to ask that group of friends/colleagues to read through it for you. If well written, the copy should grab your visitors’ attention quickly, through use of compelling headlines, so that your visitors are encouraged and tempted to read on to find out what you offer that will make their lives better. When they’re finished reading (or at least, skimming) over the text, they should want to take some kind of action – call you, sign up for a newsletter, buy a product – and that had better be easy and obvious for them to do. Is it so on your site? If not, you’ve wasted your time and their time.
The above points are by no means an exhaustive list of what a good website should look like or include, but it’s certainly a good starting point as a ‘reality check’ to determine if your site is maximizing its potential.
Having read through this article and putting your existing website through the wringer, you may realize that your website isn’t all that it could be. Perhaps it just needs some fine-tuning. Or maybe it needs to be completely redone. In either case, the longer you leave it, the more potential business you’re losing. I’m not advocating rushing through the process of trying to build a high quality website – that’s probably what got you in this position in the first place. But once you’ve acknowledged that your site isn’t getting you the results you want and can now pinpoint why, it’s time to get on the right track. Do it properly and you’ll be glad you did.