Websites: Where Some Businesses Fail
The outside appearance of a storefront can tell us a lot about a business before we even walk inside. Usually, the signage and name of the business will tell us exactly what we can expect. If we glance in the window, we can associate a clean and thoughtfully decorated shop with professionalism and passion. The businesses that understand this will get many visitors while those that do not won’t be in business for very long. Unfortunately, even a lot of the businesses that do understand the importance of the storefront don’t realize that their website is exactly the same thing, the difference being that anyone can visit it at any time. Here are a few of the biggest areas of improvement nearly any business can make to their online presence that will be sure to draw more customers through their digital doors.
1. No website at all.
If you own a business or simply want to build your personal brand, you must have a website in 2017. What do you do when you want to try a new restaurant, get a haircut, or hire a plumber? I can tell you what I and the majority of other Americans do: Google. With 70% of Americans regularly shopping online, not having a website is as good as waving a white flag to your competition. Word of mouth still counts for something, but it matters less to people who grew up with the Internet and can find an online store or service with an address or phone number in seconds. To quote Plato, what was, was, and will never be again. An online component is just the norm for a successful business today and onward.
2. Designs from when Friends was still airing.
You guys remember the days when Geocities was all the rage and no one batted an eye at Comic Sans, gaudy gradients, and flashing GIFs? Well, some people are still living those days. Because I’m a nerd and history buff, I sometimes browse Kult of Athena. I love them, but Jesus Christ their website is from the Dark Ages. Kult of Athena is an outlier in that they are still a successful business while having an outdated website. Most are not. An outdated site design looks unprofessional and is basically the online equivalent of having your nephew design your business’s logo in Microsoft Paint (RIP). Visitors may want to see if the next site in line is easier on the eyes, even if you are showing up well in search engine results. If you are passionate about what you do, show it by giving your website a modern facelift.
3. Poor user experience.
So, maybe your website’s design is slightly outdated, but that’s not as big of an issue compared to a site that doesn’t work at all. If a potential customer doesn’t find the information they need or has to back out of several broken links, they are gone. Most users only stick around on a website for about 59 seconds or less, so this is the window you have to capture their attention. This includes making your message clear at a glance, a design that’s easy on the eyes and not too distracting, an easily navigable hierarchy of links, and ensuring that all of those links actually lead somewhere. Keep in mind that it’s possible to over-design your site. Try to avoid things like music or videos that play automatically, or any other cheap, flashing gimmicks that are more likely to annoy your visitors rather than convince them to buy something from you.
4. Not responsive on mobile devices.
Over 70% of Americans spread their Internet browsing out through multiple platforms. This means that having a site that works well on a desktop is only half the battle. That 59% rule from above also applies to mobile sites. If your site is clunky and unresponsive - meaning that the size of your site doesn’t adapt to the user’s screen - then visitors will likely not want to waste time pinching at their screen to make your site readable. There is also no guarantee that they’ll give you a second chance on a desktop. If you haven’t already, ensuring that your site is optimized for mobile devices just jumped to the top of your business’s online to-do list.
5. No SEO strategy.
Even if your site is beautiful, it can still fail to bring in new leads. SEO, or search engine optimization for the uninitiated, is just as important as your website’s appearance. When someone Google’s “coffee shops in Portland”, your goal is to be the first coffee shop that shows up in those results. You can accomplish this with a solid SEO strategy that includes using key words that represent your business and market in your site’s content and links. When search engines “crawl” your site, they will rank you based on relevance which is built through these key words as well as links to your site scattered throughout the web. This means that it’s also important to get your business out there through social media links as well as links back to you from other websites, whether it be through a guest post on a blog or a recommendation from a review site.
Building your own website is no longer difficult or expensive.
One of the biggest reasons that local businesses are reluctant to update their online presence is, of course, the money. It is true that a custom website built from the ground up can be very expensive, depending on what you want it to do. That used to be your only choice. But that was before Squarespace, WordPress, Wix, and other similar site building platforms. These platforms allow users to build websites in visual editors while avoiding the complexities of coding.
There is certainly still a learning curve to each of these platforms, but it’s nothing compared to basically learning another language such as HTML or CSS. These platforms provide the scaffolding, so hiring a web designer to build your site through WordPress or Squarespace can be significantly cheaper while giving you a uniquely beautiful site that can communicate your message effectively. Spoiler alert: I do this for a living, so if you’re in need of an updated website or simply have questions about what platform suits your needs best, drop me a line!