Let me start by saying that I am not a fan of resolutions. You should really be evaluating and changing course on a regular basis. Having said that, I do want to ask you to add one thing to your to do list in 2010 that isn’t a resolution: improve your website’s user experience in the new year.
Your website is your 24/7 sales force. Even if you’re mostly an offline business, consumers are feeling more and more comfortable with completing transactions online. More importantly, consumers are looking to Google and others in their social network for recommendations, and of course from there a browser heads to a website to follow-up the recommendation with more information.
Will that browser become a buyer based on what they see? Consider:
- There’s no salesperson there to provide additional information or clarification.
- There’s no retail storefront or other clues to give information on your credibility and background. All they see is what you’re telling them.
- There’s nothing stopping your browser from leaving the ‘store’ by hitting the back button or close the window. Pretty easy.
Easy Tips and Tweaks
Don’t panic – it isn’t a hopeless battle. Here’s a wee checklist you can use to check if there are improvements you can make to your site, making browsers more comfortable and turning them into buyers.
- Are the words you are using on your site the same words you would use if you were speaking to them in person? If not, fix it.
- Are those flashy graphics and spinning widgets adding to the experience or just a distraction?
- Beware of fatiguing your readers. You shouldn’t have any block of text bigger than a 10 pound note. That’s a rough gauge but close enough. Break it up with headers/subheaders, bullet points, and graphics to make the text more readable.
- Pretend that your website doesn’t have a menu. Can your user still get around? Hope so – because some users don’t read a menu.
- How’s your search? You have one –right? And it should work.
That’s a few things to get you started. But really, the best way to know how your site is working is to ask. No, not one of your staff or someone who’s worked on the site before. Preferably a customer – especially one who hasn’t used the site much, so you can watch them as they go and understand how they navigate.
If you can’t get a good test with a customer on the site, pay someone else to do it. Sometimes you are too close. Similar to how stores have secret shoppers, when you are too close to something you might miss the things that are causing the most problems are too obvious. Haven’t you been to a website recently and thought Hmmm. I don’t get it. It happens a lot.
As consumers become more and more comfortable with online technology, small businesses who “get it” will make their sites better and better and reap the rewards for it. Those sites that don’t speak to their customer and don’t make the experience easy for those consumers to do business with them will fall behind. Simple as that.
Andy Hayes is the Managing Director of Travel Online Partners (TOP), the go-to resource for small businesses – especially in travel and tourism – for help with online technology. If you’re worried about your website’s user experience, visit their website for a free small business assessment.