“It is better to ask some of the questions than know all the answers.” – James Thurber.
I meet a lot of small businesses who are ‘in between websites’ or ‘just about to make some changes’. At Clear Thought we are always ‘just about to make some changes’… well by adding some new piece of content or other.
No matter what the reason for the change, or perhaps you are only at the beginning of your website journey, here are 6 critical things should consider to boost the effectiveness of your site. There are loads more, but these will get you started:
1. How easy are you to do business with (i.e. have you got a good method of contact or feedback)?
If your customer service is nothing less than brilliant, no matter how great your product is, people will pick you up on it.
I’m sure there is reams of research out there that talks about things that drive people crazy, but I have no doubt that right up there is ‘not being able to find contact details’ (and by law you have to publish ownership details BTW). At the very least you should have an email address or phone number. Maybe a web form straight into a proactive customer services person. Even better, a live chat function.
And, in this day and age time waits for no one, so if a customer is looking for a response, it had better be within a decent time scale.
With all that in mind, there are some fantastic web feedback tools that you can plug directly into your sales & marketing, or customer service teams. Systems that integrate with your website and enable 2-way dialogue and an almost instant response. How cool would your brand look responding almost in real time? Currently we like: Kampyle, and Get Satisfaction.
Tip: If you don’t have the time or resource to handle lots of direct contact with your users now, then you should seriously think about putting it in your plans – a virtual assistant or call handling service could help here. Make it easy for people to do business with you and embrace negative feedback as much as positive. If you are not managing people’s niggles about your organisation, service or product, the Internet could magnify the issue to your disadvantage (bad news travels fast – really fast on the web). It’s simply a matter of your online reputation.
2. Have you got a way of keeping your site really current and fresh, and is it highly visible to search engines?
Sorry, that’s two questions, but when I talk about these topics, people either glaze-over, or give me a wink. And, they’re completely interdependent, so worth addressing together.
If you totally ‘get it’ that a pristine, relevant and current online presence can be the making of an organisation, then you’ll understand the importance of good web content. It definitely has impact on engagement.
Companies that just talk about how great they are, or worse, have out-of-date content, are missing a trick. Be relevant. Be engaging. Be about your customers.
From a practical point-of-view, how easy is it to update your content, and can search engines see it? Content managed systems are the way forward… web sites that allow business owners to manage there own content and invite user interaction. This means more control.
Systems that allow you tailor your content to be media-rich and search engine optimised (SEO) are what small businesses are using these days.** At the moment we like ‘open source’ built sites that are easy to handover to another expert should anything happen to the original developer. Drupal and WordPress are amonsgt our favourites… much better than a bedroom built job that hooks you in to a specific individual or agency.
** If the terminology in this section is sending you to sleep, or perhaps exciting you, there’s plenty of detail on the internet, but it’s not that important in this context. If you want to know more, or find out if it is important to your business, drop us a line.
3. Is your site’s navigation the simplest and easiest it can be (i.e. can users actually find there way around without actually having to think about it too much)?
We do a lot of work, using specialists, with our clients to get their site’s information architecture correct, and its usability spotless. If people can’t get around your site quickly and logically they’ll be off (that should make you think about your bounce rate***). Good web designers can do a great job of information architecture (IA) and usability, but if they get the crayons out before mapping it all out, then you have a problem. It’s about supporting the customer journey.
*** Bounce rate: Some more techie jargon that analysis tools like Google Analytics use to identify which pages of your site loses users.
4. Is your site compliant?
If one of the objectives of your site is ‘data capture’ have you considered your users’ privacy? You’ll need to be thinking about the Data Protection Act, the Disability Discrimination Act… and, most importantly, the expectations of your users.
These days users absolutely expect to have to give something to get something. At the very least an email address in return for an account, download or eNews subscription.
If you can’t answer yes to all these questions above, you could be opening yourself up to some pretty negative interaction, or worse legal disputes.
The trick is to invite users into your community and have them manage their own profile and subscriptions. Just another reason for them to come back.
5. Has your site been fully user tested?
6. Is your site ripe for social media?
OK, so at the risk of this blog turning into a discussion paper, I’m going to keep the detail for these final two questions back. If you want to know more, please email our site, or drop me your email address on twitter (@cherylcrichton) and I will send them to you. Also, please feel free to ask your own questions.
Is your website being fully supported by a strategic and integrated marketing effort, and what content do you have that can be re-used else where? (Sorry, that’s actually another two questions).
There are some fantastic websites out there produced by some fantastic thinkers and doers. However, there are many many more that fall a long way short. I can’t count the times I have seen website produced ‘by design’, or where the mechanics or task of the site has not been thought about properly. Getting your online presence wrong can be like slapping people in the face when they walk through your (virtual) shop door.
By Cheryl Crichton | Associate Clear Thinker | Clear Thought Consulting Ltd | @cherylcrichton | www.clear-thought.co.uk
If this blog is of interest to you, you may also like to read:
Clear Thought Consulting works with small businesses, equipping them with the marketing strategies, suppliers, skills and set-up that they need to become bigger businesses. We do this by planning and delivering 12-month marketing transformation programmes – supporting a small business through a step-by-step process to making marketing pay. We firmly believe that when you can’t out-spend your competition, you have to out-think them.
What turns you off on a website?
Please use the comment function below to share your thoughts on what you like or loathe about the websites you visit.