In a world where people stay online for most of the day, a standard website just doesn’t cut it. Depending on the product, up to 83% of consumers visit a company’s or service provider’s website before making a purchase. And as more and more consumers make decisions based on their online experience, the appearance, usability, and accessibility of your website is more important than ever, especially if you are in a competitive market.
Having a right understanding of your website’s role can greatly benefit your business. Think of it as an extension of your sales staff. In the same way you wouldn’t send out an unkempt salesman to represent your company, neither should you send out an unremarkable website to the consumer who is specifically searching for your product or service.
Working on a website is the ideal time to consider the rest of your branding as well – message, color palette, and logo. The worst thing you can do is invest in a well-built, mobile friendly website, and not have the proper design elements to make the website stand out visually.
Evaluating your website
We mentioned earlier that your website is an extension of your staff, and just like you formally evaluate your team on a yearly basis, you should be doing the same thing for your website. Recommendations vary, but most agree that every 2-3 years you should consider updating the design of your website. But, you should also be making tweaks to the website throughout the year – offer new information, update pictures, and add any new products, services, or staff members – this is simple, routine maintenance.
Here are a few things to look at when evaluating your website:
- Have you added any services or products?
- Has your target market changed – expanded or tightened?
- Has your competition created a new website or branding that is stronger than yours?
- How do you rank on search engines for the services or products you provide?
- Is your website mobile and tablet compatible?
- Is the overall design up to date, fresh, and current?
- Is it easy for you to make small changes to your website?
If you answered yes to a couple of these, it’s probably time to consider a new website.
About a year ago a major shift in website design occurred – Responsive Website Design (RWD) arrived. RWD allows your website to automatically resize and reconfigure its layout based on the device it is being viewed on. So, whether your consumer is viewing your website on their desktop, their tablet, or their phone, they are seeing the appropriate version. The reason this is great news is that it has eliminated the need for maintaining two websites – a desktop and a mobile. This cuts costs and saves you time, only having to update one website.
If your current website is not responsive, you should consider the potential downside to this. Over the last year, the percentage of traffic to websites via mobile devices has increased by 78%. As of quarter one of 2013, nearly 25% of all website traffic is derived from mobile devices. If your website is not mobile friendly or compatible, you are potentially losing out on 1 out of every 4 consumers. 2013 has been called the Year of Responsive Web Design.
Another feature, though not quite as new, is Content Management System Websites (CMS). These websites use a platform that allows the owner to easily make changes to the website without any software – just an internet browser. The days of relying on your web developer to make every little change to your website are over, which is great news. This means keeping your website fresh and up to date with current information is easier than ever.
If you are considering a new website, these are the first two questions you should ask the web developer – will it be responsive and will it be built with a CMS?
Search Engine Optimization
With over 650 million websites, and another 51 million added each year, there is plenty of online competition for your services. We looked at a few ways to make your website stand out aesthetically, but there are also ways to help it stand out on search engines. Being on the first page of a Google search for your services is crucial to your online conversions.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is what helps your website rank well with search engines. There are several SEO services that can be performed on your website, both one time and ongoing. This is another factor you should consider when building a website; much of the SEO work is done during the website build, so be sure to ask early. This is a much larger topic and one we may revisit in a future article.
These days, it’s like a business card
Having a business card has been necessary for years and years. Websites have become just as necessary. It’s expected and it has become a major component to the consumer’s decision process. Even if they learn about your company through a trusted referral, at a sponsored event, or in a meeting with you, before they make a final decision they will visit your website. Make sure it looks good, functions well, and clearly communicates your company’s goals.