If you have a website, or you’re about to embark on getting a new website designed, then there are two key points that both you and your web designer need to keep in the forefront of your minds at all times during the website development process:
- Visitors need to love your website
- Google needs to love your website
How you can achieve both those goals? With great User Experience (UX). Why are those key issues so important? Well, the first one should be obvious; if visitors don’t love you website they’ll click back almost straight away. It’s often said that you’ve only got about 3 seconds to convince a new visitor to your website to stick around any longer than those initial moments. If they do click back very quickly, then Google (or whichever search engine they came via) notices that and takes note! If most new visitors to your website abandon it almost straight away then search engines get the message pretty quickly and stop suggesting it.
So, how can you ensure that your website provides a good user experience so that your website visitors love it and Google notices that they love it (and agrees!) so it gets recommended more and climbs up the search results? Read on for 15 pearls of wisdom from my over twenty years of designing websites…
1. A Website Needs Strong, Clear and Consistent Branding
This one’s true not just for your website but across your entire brand. And the key point here is that you need one: a brand. Make sure you build a strong, confident and professional-looking brand image and then keep it consistent across all channels including your website, social media profiles, business listings, email footers and real-world signage like letterheads, clothing/uniform and any branded vehicles your company may use.
Talking specifically about your website, your company logo should be clearly visible and almost take pride of place at the top of your website in the header – usually either in the middle, or more commonly in the top-left corner. Sticking to standard practices that people are used to helps to avoid any unnecessary friction and hurdles in your visitors’ journey. You should also make sure that you have a favicon on your website. This will usually just be your logo, but depending on your logo and how recognisable it is when scaled to be very small, you may need to consider a specifically designed version of your logo.
2. A Nice Website Colour Scheme
A key part of your company’s branding and image is the colour scheme used, and this should of course match with the colour scheme used on your website. Colour plays an extremely important part in establishing your brand identity, and it’s important to have colours which express the personality of your brand and compliment each other nicely – especially in terms of font colours and how well they work with backgrounds to make your website easy on the eye.
If you’re just starting out and you need help choosing a colour palette which will work well for your brand, speak to your designer for advice and ideas, as this is something that it’s important to get right from the start.
3. Make Your Website Easy to Read
Following on nicely from the previous point about colour schemes, another part of your brand identity is the font that you use on your website. This needs some careful consideration as it can play a big part in the subconscious tone which your website portrays. It needs to be comfortable and easy to read, and you probably want to stick to just one or two fonts throughout the majority of your website if you can.
You may find that one font works best for paragraph-level text and another works better for headings, and that’s OK – but don’t go berserk with lots of fonts all over the place – it’ll look like it was designed on Windows 95 by a 13 year old! Choose clear, easy-to-read fonts and be consistent with colours and size. Oh, and don’t go overboard with bold and italic text everywhere, it drives people mad!
4. Clear and Impactful Headlines on Web Pages
Make sure you have a clear, bold headline that’s easily read. You’ve got single-digit seconds to make an impact, after all. People get bored easily because we’ve developed very short attention spans, so make sure you capture their imagination quickly.
If you’re good enough at that first step, people will stick around long enough to read a bit more, so on a second-level heading underneath the main heading you can give a little bit more information, to further entice the visitor to stick around for longer.
5. Don’t Use Long Words When a Diminutive One Will Suffice
Don’t waffle or use over-complicated words in the hope of appearing clever. People scan; they won’t read it all so it’s a waste of your time writing it! With that in mind, I’ll get onto the next point in this post ASAP…
6. Forget “Death by PowerPoint” – your website could die from “Death by Stock Photos”!
Don’t over-use cheesy stock photos. Wherever possible get photos that are unique to you – we offer photography services in Liverpool and the North West so whether we’re designing your website or not we can come to your business and produce some high-quality and real, authentic photographs of your team at work or the inside/outside of your building. Rather than having to search for a stock photo that fits the website, it’s surely better to produce the specific type and style of photographs needed! Plus, the authenticity element is not to be overlooked, especially if you’re hoping to have visitors come and visit your location. They’ll be confused if they’ve seen a mixture of photos taken in random different places and cities around the world!
I’m not saying never use stock photos – you’ll even find a few on this very website! Sometimes it can be handy to use stock photos, but be careful not to make your website look too fake and manufactured. People will lose trust – especially if they’ve seen the same photo on lots of other websites before.
7. Show Off and Blow Your Own Trumpet!
No-one else is going to blow it for you, so don’t be afraid to show off! Put logos of your biggest and best clients (with their permission, of course) and ask for testimonials from all your customers. Ask them to review/recommend you on your Facebook, Google My Business and Yell.com or Yelp business listings, then also display those testimonials on your website, too.
If you display testimonials on a services page (not your homepage) then you can also add some special markup to have Google show the average star rating in search results, like this:
When someone lands on your website for the first time, they’ve probably never heard of you before. Even if they’re vaguely aware of your company, they might not have any word-of-mouth knowledge of whether you’re good or not, so it’s important for you to – honestly – tell them what others have had to say about your work and services.
It hopefully goes without saying that you should NEVER put fake reviews on your website, and you shouldn’t “sanitize” any negative comments, either. People want authenticity, and will run a mile if they think you’re trying to pull a fast one.
8. Smash Them Paragraphs
Break up what would otherwise be large chunks of text by having bullet points and stripping out all but the key words. As I said, people scan read – so don’t waste time writing text that’ll never get read.
However, this isn’t a Word Document so I don’t mean standard bullet points. Style them nicely, or even use icons and headings with small text blurb underneath, like this:
9. Dive Straight In to the Good Stuff – No Dilly-Dallying!
The higher up the page, the more likely it is to get seen – so don’t be naïve and “lead up” to your killer point – it’ll get lost or never seen. Put your crown jewels on display for the whole world to see, right at the top of the page! Anything viewable before having to scroll is known as “above the fold”:
If you don’t believe me that many people won’t scroll down to see the lower elements of your page, get in touch and we can help you set up monitoring for a particular page on your website which will generate “heatmaps” and other statistics about how people are viewing your page, where they’re scrolling to, how long they’re hovering about and paying attention to certain elements, and what links they’re clicking on. You might be surprised (and even upset!) by the results, but the great thing is that you can make data-driven decisions about what to change and what to leave, based on facts rather than your own assumptions.
10. A Well-Organised Website Menu Pays Dividends
As I’ve said countless times before, you have mere single-digit seconds to capture a website visitor and stop them leaving again. The best way to stop them leaving is to answer their question. Everyone comes to a website with a question. Depending on how they landed on your website, they may or may not land on the page which answers the question straight away – and if they don’t, hopefully they’ll at least try to find it before giving up and clicking the Back Button in their browser.
This is why your menu needs close attention paying to it, especially if you have a large website with lots of content and pages. Does every page need to be listed in your menu? Do you need a whopping huge great “mega menu”?
Keep your menu well organised and be careful not to allow it to become overwhelming. Stick with short, sharp, to-the-point item labels, and use the main keyword first. For example if you’re an IT services/repair centre, you might want to go with menu items like this under a “repairs” top-level heading:
- Computer Repairs
- Television Repairs
- Smartphone & Tablet Repairs
Notice how I’ve put the main differential word at the start, but kept the word “Repairs” each time? That’s for two reasons – firstly to confirm in the visitor’s mind that they’ll be going to a page about repairs of that item, not some other related service, and secondly as it helps Google and other search engines to categorise your website and all its pages.
11. You Meta Optimise Those Tags
Optimise your meta titles and descriptions for SEO. Google’ll see ’em, and so will your website’s visitors when deciding what to click on. Getting your website to rank well, ie. pages from your site to appear high up in Google search results, is one thing – but you then want people to click on YOUR link, not your competitors’. How do you do that? By carefully crafting the text in the title and description so that your site stands out from the crowd and makes users click!
Something to bear in mind is that the more times your site is clicked, and people end up staying on your site after clicking, the more Google will start to recommend your website in the first place. This is known as your Click-Through Rate, or CTR, and it’s a measurement of how often people click your site when it’s shown (an “Impression”). A better click-through rate (and one that also retains users after they click) signals to Google that it’s a good result and its customers are happy to be given it, so they start recommending you more, and more, and more. It’s a vicious, and hugely positive, result for your website!
12. Images Shouldn’t Load Like They’re Being Faxed!
Optimise your images. No really, take the time to stop and optimise first. By this I mean open them up in Photoshop and resize and adjust the quality settings before uploading them to the website. Resize to the size it’ll be displayed on your website (don’t be afraid to have multiple versions of the same image for different places within a website) and then turn the JPEG quality down just enough so you don’t see too much difference visually, but you’ll notice the filesize drop hugely.
If you miss out this vital step either due to laziness or just not realising how important it is, you can really slow down your website which not only absolutely kills the User Experience, it also can have dramatic effects on your SEO and ranking on Google.
As a young teenager growing up in the late 1990s, I remember all too well the pain of waiting for a photo to load, gradually, bit by bit, from the top of the image slowly down towards the bottom (… of the JPEG). I’m talking, of course, about holiday photos that had been scanned in from the film prints, and things like photos of my favourite bands performing at concerts, nothing else.
Sure, internet speeds have become faster in the last 20 years, but so have the resolutions of digital photos and the filesizes that go with them! You might have a lovely new shiny Sony Alpha a7R III Mirrorless Digital Camera but that doesn’t mean you should be uploading a 42.4 megapixel photo to be displayed at just 250 pixels wide in your website footer!
13. A Fast Website = A Successful Website
Speed it up. Make sure your website loads fast. You’ve got single-digit seconds to make an impact and make a user go “yes, I’ll stay.”
3 seconds and they’re gone.
Yes, it can really be that brutal.
A very frequently cited statistic is that Walmart in the USA saw a 2% conversion increase for every 1s speed improvement to their website loading, so it’s definitely worth doing. Perhaps more importantly, though, is that since 2010 Google has taken a website’s loading speed into consideration when ranking in search. Don’t believe me? Read it for yourself here:
It makes sense – think about it. Google are a business. Their customers are the people searching. The product is “recommended websites from search results“, and Google want their customers to be happy with the product given. So, they don’t like to recommend rubbish, slow loading websites which are hard to navigate and understand. Their ever-evolving algorithm is designed to automatically find the best results for users. So if you want to be that best result, you know what to do!
Get in touch if you have a slow-loading website and you need help making it zoom.
14. Websites Need Strong, Clear Calls to Action
Just like any salesperson on the shop floor of your local electrical retailer will have been trained to spot the earliest point in a conversation to “ask for the sale”, or “close the sale”, it’s equally important that your website has as good a Call to Action (“CTA”). After all, you don’t want your visitors to just think “oh, that was a nice website” as they close the lid on their laptop and crack open a beer.. you want them to do something. Probably, open their wallets and give you money!
Figuratively speaking, you need to grab their hands and lead them to the proverbial ATM! By that I mean make taking positive and decisive action as easy as possible, so it feels like the logical next step. Put a button right there, all they need to do is click. Or maybe, enter their email address and then click. Boom!, there you’ve got a qualified lead to follow up on. Don’t overdo it though, too many is worse than none at all.
15. Be Approachable!
Make sure you have a Contact page – as well as being linked to in your footer (or just spelled out there) it should be the last item in your website’s menu, as that’s where people will look for and expect to find it.
Be helpful, but not too overbearing. A live chat widget is a great way to offer help in an easy way on your website, and potentially hook a customer that might otherwise have strayed away. It’s easy for you too, as you can install a free mobile app to respond to queries so even if you’re away from your desk with no laptop, you can still answer and arrange a follow-up phone call or meeting. Plus, if you have a larger team you can even transfer chats between “departments” to ensure that the website visitor is being served by the person best placed to help!
Get in touch with us (why not use our live chat widget?!) and we’ll be happy to demonstrate how this can help your website work even better for your business.
So we’ve come to the end. I hope you found this article interesting and useful, and it gives you some food for thought when getting your website designed or even with what improvements can be made to your current website. If you’d like to discuss any of these points with us in relation to your own website and how we can help, please get in touch!