No matter how nostalgic you might be for the good old days, this isn’t 1999 – sub-par web design just isn’t going to cut it anymore! Poorly designed and executed websites turn off your visitors, decrease sales and conversions and can even lower your rankings in the search engines. There’s just no excuse for it anymore – especially considering the number of great website building tools available online today.
If you have any doubts about whether your current website design is working for you or not, consider the following advice.
Reason #1 – Bad Design
Despite the popular saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” the truth is that we all make these snap judgments based on first impressions – and this goes double for the homepages of most websites. In fact, when you consider that the average first-time website visitor takes fewer than seven seconds to decide whether or not to stay on your site or click “Back”, it’s easy to see why good website design matters.
Of course, design is a subjective thing, and what appeals to one visitor might turn off another. However, there are some basic rules that you should never, ever break when it comes to web design.
No animated graphics! Nothing says late 90s like a dancing snowman gif graphic. If you’ve got them on your website, get them off – there’s a good chance they’re killing your conversions.
Reason #2 – Poorly Structured Navigation
People come to your website looking for information. Maybe they got there by typing your URL directly into their browsers, or maybe they’ve landed on your page after typing a question into a search engine and stumbling across your site in the results. Regardless of how they’ve found you, they’re looking for something – so how do you think they’ll feel if it takes them half a dozen clicks just to locate the page that answers their questions?
As you can see, navigation is important, but what does good navigation look like in practice? For starters, it’s shallow, which means that most pages on the site can be accessed within three clicks (via the site’s navigation structure and internal links). It’s also intuitive, which means that the categories you’ve designated in your navigation menu make sense to the user, who is able to select between different navigation options to find specific pieces of content.
Of course, determining whether or not a navigation menu is intuitive is tough to do when you’ve had your nose buried in your site throughout the development process. For this reason, it’s a smart move to enlist a trusted friend or family member to take a look at your site and let you know if the categories you’ve chosen make sense.
Reason #3 – Slow Load Times
No matter how pretty your site is or how intuitive your navigation structure might be, people still aren’t going to stick around if your site loads slowly. Remember what we said earlier about only having a few seconds to capture someone’s attention? If visitors have to wait 10-15 seconds for all your images to load, they’ll be gone just as quickly as if you assaulted their eyes with neon graphics.
But slow load times aren’t just bad for your visitors – they could also be hurting your search engine rankings as well. In early 2010, Google employees Amit Singhal and Matt Cutts announced on the Google Webmaster Central Blog that the search giant is now including page speed as one of the many ranking factors that determine where a site will land in the search engine results pages:
“We encourage you to start looking at your site’s speed (the tools above provide a great starting point) — not only to improve your ranking in search engines, but also to improve everyone’s experience on the Internet.”
To improve your speed, install a caching plugin (if your site runs on WordPress) or compress images and clean up old deprecated code (if your site runs on HTML). For more ideas on how to get your site to load faster, run it through the Web Page Test service and consult a web development professional on how to implement the recommended changes.
Reason #4 – No Clear Message
There are billions and billions of websites online today, which means that – unless you’re one of the few truly unique business models out there – your visitors have several options available to satisfy their needs. And, as stated above, since you only have a few seconds to grab their attention, it’s crucial that you clarify immediately what your website is about and how you’re different from other sites online.
In marketing, identifying this point of differentiation is often referred to as developing your USP – your unique selling point or proposition. If you’re getting a lackluster response from your website visitors (as demonstrated by low conversions and a high bounce rate), it could be because you a) don’t have a clear USP yet or, or b) your USP isn’t clearly stated on your site.
If you don’t feel like your USP is clear, consider the following seven guidelines for creating a solid USP by E-Myth author Michael Gerber:
Make it short – a phrase, not a sentence.
Once you’ve developed your USP, make sure your message shines through on your website. Put it in the header, in the sidebar, in your graphics – whatever it takes to be sure that it’s immediately apparent to visitors what sets your website apart from all the others online.
Reason #5 – No Call to Action
Unless your website is strictly informational, chances are you want your visitors to do something after landing on your site. Maybe it’s purchasing a product, visiting your physical location, subscribing to an email marketing list or even something as simple as printing off a coupon for use on a future purchase.
But unfortunately, unless you tell your readers explicitly what to do, most of them will leave your site without doing a darn thing. According to Copyblogger editor Sonia Simone:
“If you want your reader to take action, use highly specific language with clear, concrete details. Don’t leave any question about what you want to see happen. And don’t be afraid to be a little ‘too obvious.’”
Telling your visitors exactly what to do is known as a “call to action” in marketing jargon. Crafting one isn’t always easy, but it’s worth investing the time and energy into drafting the closing text that ensures your website is as effective as possible.
Image: Remarkable Design