8 Quick Things to Improve Your Website
Most small businesses realize they need a website to attract customers, but often struggle to do it well. Here are the 8 things my students and I have noticed that business owners can do immediately to improve their websites.
1. Make the sales message bigger and clearer
Every business has a marketing message. Unfortunately, it’s too often buried in a website, as if the name of the company is all that matters. In my course project, several times students commented that they were confused about the websites purpose until after much digging. Had it not been for assignment, those student would have quickly left. Websites that do contain their primary sales message on the home page often seem afraid to say it clearly or boldly, as if apologizing for business they run. Even consider the message of the local business website on the right that I visited yesterday morning. They did include their primary service, but not in the place of honor. It should be located just below the company name, not pushed over to the right hand side.
2. Cut “Under construction” messages
Nothing screams unprofessional as “Under Construction” messages. Perhaps worse are websites that are obviously missing content, with headers missing content, boxes with default text, or pages that are blank. If content is missing, do not pretend that a placeholder will suffice. It won’t. It would be like going to a restaurant and finding a menu that says “Under Construction” with nothing else on it. Good luck to that restaurant staying in business.
3. Use content management systems for ease of administration
With content management systems like WordPress becoming so extraordinarily easy to use for non-technical folks, advanced web technologies have become assessable to business owners developing their company’s website. Although there is a small learning curve for applications like WordPress, it’s worth the time due to the time and money saved from having to hire outside companies to develop your website. Using WordPress, I was able to completely recreate my kids’ school website in less than an hour.
4. Use popular templates to improve design
The availability of good quality, free website templates consistently amazes me. And if you’re willing to spend $100, you can find a slew of professional grade quality templates in either native HTML & CSS or with content management systems like WordPress. There is no reason why your websites should look like this website (shown on the right), straight from the 1990s. With most local businesses having at least a mediocre design, using preexisting templates can give your website a professional look with minimal investment and time. Trust me, it matters.
5. Check for (and fix) broken links
With free link checker tools, like this one, it’s incredibly easy to check all the links on your website to ensure that all of them have a home. It is essential to find all the broken links on your own site. Important to find all of those external website changes too.
6. Change non-relevant or unprofessional photos
Some small businesses, working on a bootstrap budget cut corners when it comes to images on a website. They end up using amateur photos or use canned “free” photos that have no relation to the content. Photos are important, but the wrong ones tell the wrong message. Consider the website on the right. About halfway down the page, they have a picture of smiling family of four all snuggling on the floor. While I get that they’re trying to portray themselves as a family friendly company, the photo comes across as pretentious.
7. Remove unused or rarely used social network accounts
Contrary to popular belief, not every business needs to be on social networks. Social networks serve a function, a very important function, for many businesses. It provides a means of quickly connecting and communicating with their customers. But communication requires that their be time spent communicating. If a small business cannot devote the time and resources to managing and interacting on the social network, the empty landing page looks like nothing more than an “under construction” sign. Sometimes, just as bad, is the started and now neglected social network account with nothing new in the past year. Every time I see an account like this, my opinion of the company drops. They clearly do not have the resources to maintain the account.
8. Make contact information extremely easy to find on every page
While most small businesses have gotten the message, quite a few websites still do not contain a phone number or email address readily visible from every page. Some businesses choose to hide contact info on purpose, to reduce or eliminate calls. This is especially true for pure online businesses without offices and running with only one or two people who cannot afford to spend all day answering emails. But for local brick-n-mortar businesses, contact info is essential for customers who want your service. Put it on bold, large print on every page.
With these 8 small things, you can quickly and cheaply improve your website. If you’re already doing them, great!