I’m writing this at the end of 2012 because I want you to have a successful 2013!
The impression your website makes is crucial. People quickly decide whether to stay or leave, often within a few seconds! In that time, you need to convince first-time visitors that they can get something of value from you.
I review websites and have found that the mistakes I describe below are the BIG 3. Fix these and your results will dramatically improve — assuming that you have a high quality offering that people need.
1. Unclear message
Your message is two-fold:
- What you offer
- What your visitor should do
For example, you might offer small business coaching. Maybe you want your visitor to download a free report that provides valuable information for small businesses but also describes your services.
I mention the free report because one corollary mistake is not having a way for people to engage with you without purchasing something. Many people are not ready to buy right away, so you need to have an alternative. Usually that’s a free report, e-book, video course or audio lesson.
So your home page could say:
Are you a small business owner looking to increase your profits? Acme Consulting guides owners like you through a systematic process of 1) analysis, 2) action, and 3) verification.
Learn why these 3 steps are crucial for all small businesses by downloading our free report, “3 Steps to Higher Business Profits.”
And do you know what? Your home page doesn’t need much more than that!
A video of you saying the same thing is good; video is very engaging and helps people get to know you in a more personal way.
2. Confusing layout
I often see websites that are confusing. I just don’t know where to go first, or next. One of the most common mistakes is WAY too much on the home page. For example, I might see:
- Introductory text
- Blog posts
- A sign-up form for a free report
- Ads for products & services
- A video
Furthermore, I might not know where to go to find the rest of the blog, a list of products and services, more information about the site’s owner or a way to contact him or her. There are conventions that people expect so they can easily navigate around a site. When these navigational features are not available, people get confused and leave.
When you get your message clear (item #1), your site will get simpler, which will improve your layout and navigation.
3. Poor design
Visitors instantly decide whether you are professional or not by the way your site looks. For this reason, the visual aspect of your site — its design — is very important.
You can hire a website designer — some specialize in WordPress (and I recommend WordPress for small businesses just starting out). But be sure your designer is not just an artist; you need someone who knows which type of design results in successful websites.
If you do it yourself, here’s a procedure you can use:
- Choose a WordPress theme that is flexible and offers forum-based support. Weaver II and Atahualpa are 2 free themes that meet these criteria.
- Look at your competitors’ sites and decide which you think look the most professional and convincing.
- Write down what you like and what you don’t like.
- Hand-draw a design. If you have graphic software, you can use that. I often use PowerPoint.
- Configure the theme to create your website.
Designing a website can be a real time sink. You can spend hours just looking at themes! So don’t get too fancy. Make sure you get it done. You can apply a new theme or make minor changes at any time. In fact, you should always be on the lookout for new ideas for your website, so don’t think that it’s ever done. Instead, get to the point where it looks good and functions well. Then get back to your business.