I talk to a lot of business owners and marketing executives about making their website better.
In fact, it’s probably the most frequent conversation I have with potential partners and clients.
Here’s what they want to know:
Essentially, they want to know what’s wrong with their website.
And though it may not always be the best way to start off a relationship, I’m always honest in my assessment … even if it’s not so flattering.
Clearly, every website is different.
But the first thing I always talk about is your website’s goal.
All too often, your goal isn’t clearly defined.
It may be that you built the site because you knew you needed to … but didn’t really think about what it’s there to do. Or you may have a laundry list of goals, and because your website is trying to all of them, it isn’t succeeding at any of them.
The first step you need to take is to define your website’s goal.
Every decision you make and action you take should be done to reach your goal.
But after you’ve defined your goal and you’re building around it, you always have to consider how your customer will reach that goal.
Remember: it’s not about you.
You cannot expect users to understand your website logic or structure; make it as clear as possible and easy as possible for them to do what they need to do.
If your website is designed to support your goal, then it’s time to talk about the technology it’s built on.
When I say technology, I don’t just mean a content management system like WordPress. Yes, we exclusively use WordPress and evangelize it, but there’s so much more to take into account.
For example, have you implemented responsive design for mobile devices and tablets? Is the site built properly for search engines?
Is it secure with an SSL certificate? Have you invested in improving your website speed? Have you made your site accessible or 508 compliant?
These are all best practices.
You may have been able to get away with a non-mobile friendly site in the past, but you can’t anymore. And there’s no excuse for having an insecure site; adding an SSL certificate is easy, affordable, and establishes trust with your clients.
The right technology supports your goal. Technology itself isn’t the answer, but it provides the foundation of your website and why it exists.
You know it: your website is never finished, only abandoned.
Are you doing enough to drive traffic to your website? Remember — even if you build it, there’s no guarantee that they will come. (In fact, they probably won’t.)
It could be a content marketing strategy, regular email newsletters, community-based forums, or some other method of getting eyeballs to your site. But you have to give your customers a reason to come to your site.
This is probably the most difficult part of having a website.
I have talked with dozens of clients who, when we go to outline their new website, say they are committed to keeping up a blog. They recognize it’s important to publish content on a regular basis, and that it’s a great way to connect with their customers.
Almost all of them stop blogging shortly after their site launches.
It’s never ill-intentioned; it’s just much, much harder to maintain a regular content schedule than you think.
We fail at it, too, and I’m never happy about it.
Beyond publishing new content, maintaining your website means regular software updates, backups, security patches and more. Obviously, this is our bread-and-butter, so when you have a trusted website partner, you can outsource these tasks to them.
But they can’t be neglected, or you’ll be an easy target for hackers.
Here we are — the $64,000 question.
When we make recommendations to our clients, we talk about their site like it’s ours.
We have a vested interest in seeing their sites succeed, so we want to make sure everything we do helps get us there.
If our client wants to do something that is a bad idea — something that’s going to make it more difficult for users to reach their goal — we tell them. If it’s something we wouldn’t do to our own website, we recommend against them doing it.
Oftentimes, it’s easy enough to ask, “Why are we doing this?” and reshape the idea to fit our goal.
Every website can be improved. Sometimes it’s the fundamentals; sometimes it’s the ongoing management. And sometimes you just need a third-party to take a look at what you’re doing and give constructive feedback.
If you’re looking for a list of recommendations for what we’d do to your site, contact us and we’ll let you know.