More Suggestions For Your Website…
By Brett Lloyd Abbott, MYM Austin Inc.
Last week I promised I would give you some “quick & easy” tips for fine-tuning your website. But in my zeal to provide helpful advice to someone who does not build websites for a living (you), I may be leaping over some not-so-quick and not-so-easy guidelines that should also be considered. Will you stick with me through some hard stuff if I promise some “quick & easy” at the end? Great, thank you.
Perhaps the hardest part of creating a great website is creating “stickiness.” This is a measure of “how long do people stick around before they abandon your site?” I say it’s hard because you have to take into account all of these factors as you put the site together:
- Layout – Do you have appropriate colors & contrasts for aesthetics?
- Layout – Have you considered the proximity of all the different elements?
- Design – Is it well-structured, functional and easy to use?
- Design – Does the menu flow logically & intuitively?
- Readability – Is it interesting?
- Readability – Is it believable?
- Readability – Is easy for all readers to comprehend and understand?
- Relevance – Am I finding what I came here for?
- Relevance – Are my questions getting answered?
- Conversion – Is there an obvious call-to-action, so I know what to do next?
- Conversion – Is the call-to-action sufficiently low risk? Or do I have to talk to a designer, even if I’m not ready? Or fill out an overly-inquisitive form?
- Personas – Have you identified the two or three or four different “stereotypical people” that are likely to visit your site?
- Personas – Have you then adjusted all of the above to take into account the different needs and styles of each of these personas?
If I lost you on “personas,” then let me take a moment to clarify. A persona is a specific but fictitious person that embodies the characteristics of one of your typical buyers. The concept has been refined to an art form (a very expensive one, I might add) by the Eisenberg brothers at Future Now Inc. To fully comprehend this concept, and save yourself $75,000, you should read “Call to Action” and “Waiting For Your Cat to Bark,” both by the Eisenbergs.
Or you could save some time and money and just trust me on this…
Here are a couple of personas that would be appropriate for a pool builder’s website in many parts of the US:
- Jane Smith – Married, 33 years old, 2 kids, a dog and a cat. Has a nursing degree, but works part time so that she can also volunteer at the school. Enjoys spending time with other moms in the neighborhood, especially those with children the same age as hers. Thinks a backyard pool would be a dream come true, because now the other moms & kids could come to her house for a change.
- John Jones – Married, 53 years old. Vice president at the bank. Empty nester, son is a lawyer, daughter is a medical surgeon. John has worked hard, and is now ready to slow down a little, and enjoy the fruits of his labors. His wife Sally wants a pool to entertain the grandkids; John’s a little worried about all the maintenance and hassles that go along with owning a pool.
With these personas well defined, you can go back to your website and make sure you’ve created the appropriate paths, signals, call-outs and “waypoints” that each of these personas would want and need to satisfy their internet search desires.
Now I’m going to refrain from defining “waypoints” so that I can give you the “quick & easy” tips I promised. (These won’t cost you $75,000.)
- Don’t use a flash intro. You may think it looks cool, but it’s an annoying roadblock to most of the rest of us. And please don’t take this personally, but it makes the search engines think you’re an idiot, because they see a website HOME page with absolutely zero content. (Search engines don’t read FLASH.)
- Hyperlink your logo in the header to take you back to the HOME page. This is standard protocol, so when you don’t do it, it annoys the people who are expecting it.
- Put your phone number and area of business at the top of the page. Once again, this is standard protocol. This allows your visitors to confirm at a glance that they’re in the right place.
- Use black text on a white background. All tests prove that this is “stickier” than any other colored font / background combination. Yes, white text on a blue or black background looks cooler, but you’re hurting your readership.
- Always underline hyperlinks. Visitors expect this. If you don’t do it, they may miss some of your important, helpful links (your waypoints), and John Jones and Jane Smith may leave unfulfilled.
- Hyperlinks should be a different font color. Same reason as above. Blue underlined hyperlinks are standard protocol. You can’t go wrong with that.
- Be careful with your font choice. Once again, readership will suffer if you try a clever or cutesy font. Georgia (for body copy) and Verdana (for headlines) were developed specifically for screen-based viewing. You’ll be safe if you stick with these.
- Don’t try to trick the search engines. Don’t hide white text on a white background, and don’t use keywords that aren’t relevant of your site. It makes the search engines angry, and they will hold a grudge. And you will be black-listed.
- On the HOME page, avoid hyperlinks to other sites. This makes the search engines think you want people to leave, so it lowers your SEO rankings. If your web designer put a link to his website at the bottom of your home page, (this is common), you should slap him.
- Turn on Google Analytics. This is free, and will give you a plethora of data to analyze when and where your visitors are coming and going.
Well, I hope the “quick & easy” was worth the wait. Till then, good selling!
PS – You can see my neglected little website here.
©2009 Brett Lloyd Abbott / MYM Austin Inc. May not be used without permission.