Have you taken a look at the websites of your competitors lately? Maybe you have, or maybe you’ve just noticed other websites that look so much more modern than your website. The problem is, you’re not really sure exactly what it is that sets those other sites apart when it comes to user experience.
It may seem at first like you should just scrap the whole thing and start from scratch. While there certainly are times a full redesign is best, it’s not always the case. Sometimes the site just needs some strategic tweaks to jumpstart your marketing results.
When deciding whether or not a full redesign is necessary for clients of mine, I start by running down this list of 7 essential elements for websites today before aesthetics are considered. Once these 7 elements have been addressed, we can then move on to the aesthetics of the site to get a full determination on the best course of action.
It’s crucial to remember that these elements need to be checked on mobile devices as well. In fact, that’s the FIRST place you should start looking for ways to improve.
The 7 Elements, In Order of Importance
1. Mobile-Responsive Design
On mobile, if the site is identical to the desktop site, that’s guaranteed bad experience for the site visitor. Links and buttons are so tiny that they are impossible to click on. When potential clients land on a website that requires a magnifying glass and baby-sized fingers to navigate, they leave. Plain and simple.
“ 61% of users are unlikely to return to a mobile site they had trouble accessing and 40% visit a competitor’s site instead. “ (McKinsey & Company)
Suffice to say, a mobile responsive site is a non-sequitur in today’s mobile-centric world. If your site isn’t mobile responsive, you’re going to need a full site redesign most likely.
2. Page Load Speed
You can have a beautiful website with all of the other 7 elements, but it will mean next to nothing if your page load times are terrible. Why? Because visitors will just leave without ever seeing your site at all.
According to surveys done by Akamai and Gomez.com, nearly half of web users expect a site to load in 2 seconds or less, and they tend to abandon a site that isn’t loaded within 3 seconds. 79% of web shoppers who have trouble with website performance say they won’t return to the site to buy again and around 44% of them would tell a friend if they had a poor experience shopping online.
The good news is that page load times can often be drastically reduced with some tweaking and a full redesign isn’t always necessary.
The free Google Pagespeed Insights tool is perfect for checking your website. The great thing about this tool is that it will give you a prioritized list on how you can improve your page speed for both mobile and desktop versions of your site with respective scores for each. You want to shoot for a score of 80 or better on both types of devices.
3. Above The Fold Calls to Action
It always surprises me when I visit sites that put you through a needle in a haystack hunt just to contact them. No one likes to scroll all the way to the bottom of a page and search through microscopic text just to find a phone number or email address.
Why hide that kind of crucial information from visitors?! The point of a website is to turn visitors into clients, so why make it so damn hard for them?
If you want a visitor to take an action like calling you, a nice big button that says CALL NOW - visible “Above the Fold” (the part you see before scrolling down) - is what you should aim for if you want more phone calls.
This also goes for lead magnets such as a Free Report to build your email list. Put it right up there above the fold. Make it EASY for visitors to know exactly what they should do once they land on your site. Don’t send them on a wild goose chase. This is one of the easiest things to make improvements on without needing a total site redesign, but is surprisingly lacking even on newer sites I’ve seen.
4. Less is More
Keeping things simple on a web page is essential for a number of reasons, but reducing visitor confusion is one of the main ones. A page with scrolling feeds, huge pictures cycling through the header of the page, and a bunch of little boxes with text in them everywhere is going to make it way harder for visitors to find the information they came for. Do you really think someone comes to your site to see some RSS feed on taxes? I assure you they did not. So lose that baggage.
This also goes for huge blocks of text. It’s hard to read big blocks of text, especially on a phone, so it’s better to aim for conveying main points. Bulleted lists and full-width sections with 1-2 sentences are great for this. If you can’t get your point across without typing a novel, you need to clarify your message for more marketing impact.
Of course, it DOES help to establish credibility and fully convey your expertise...but a Blog is the place to accomplish that, NOT a homepage. Normal web pages and homepages are for getting main points across, and a Blog is the place for you to expand on those main points for people who want to learn more.
5. The Long-Scroll Homepage
One of the best ways to make it easier on visitors using mobile devices is to implement what I call the Long-Scroll Homepage. When a visitor lands on the page, all they have to do is scroll down to transition from one marketing message to the next - no need to click through a bunch of navigation links. It also works great for visitors on desktops, because it’s just a more natural way to progress through reading information.
A key thing to remember is that with all of that scrolling, those Calls to Action Above the Fold start to require more and more effort to get back up to, so make sure to add more Calls to Action further down the page as well that coincide with the content near that section. For example, adding a Free Report button below some statistics.
This element is definitely easier to implement with a brand new site, but it’s possible to accomplish the same effect with existing sites, especially if they are on the WordPress platform.
6. Email List Building Tools
Email is still the highest-converting online marketing channel, so anything you can do to build your list of email subscribers is a win. Lead magnets such as reports, checklists, ebooks, guides, and other free offers are a great way to accomplish this.
While buttons for these are a great start and should be used liberally, slide-in boxes or drop-down bars like HelloBar are even better. Tools such as these can provide dramatic boosts to your list building efforts, and some can even be setup to pop up when visitors perform an abandonment action such as moving their pointer to the back button on their browser.
The best part is these tools work with the majority of DIY web design platforms such as WordPress or Weebly, so it’s likely you can add it to your site relatively inexpensively.
7. Blog Page with ORIGINAL Content
Notice when I talked about a Blog earlier, I said it’s a place to expand on the main points seen on your homepage and across your website. I DID NOT say that a blog is a place to share content other people have written on other websites. It’s fine if someone else does the writing for you, it just has to be content that’s not written FOR another site like a news site or someone else’s blog. Sharing a major news site’s article is a major no-no. The more that content is spread across the web, the more lazy you’ll look by posting it too.
Think about it this way - Imagine going to a doctor’s office and instead of just delivering his expert advice, he instead gets out a laptop, hops on WebMD, and reads you some other doctor’s advice. How much would you value the expertise of that doctor, if at all? Would you go back? Would you recommend them to friends?
By posting ORIGINAL content on your blog with your own ideas, you present an image of expertise and depth of knowledge...someone that puts the effort into really knowing their stuff. You also come across as someone with fresh ideas and approaches of your own, rather than someone who will just give their clients the same old cookie-cutter service the next guy offers.
Maybe you’re not the best writer, and the thought of writing blog posts is dreadful for you. Then it’s time to find yourself someone who can translate your thoughts into a well-written post. This especially rings true if your grammar and spelling are atrocious. Not to mention the time it saves you.
Author - Justin Smith
I owned a small service business from 2006-2016, and you could say I'm totally obsessed with automation and business systems. I believe the need to be physically present is the single biggest challenge small business owners like myself face.