Is it possible to improve your website on a budget? A fellow web analyst/editor and I compared notes the other day. After putting the website world to rights – Why is it that some web designers make everything sound so complicated? How do we best help clients prioritise their website and social media tasks? How do we encourage companies to take ownership of their sites? – we bemoaned our respective PDS.
PDS = Painter and Decorator Syndrome. Like painters and decorators, we too spend our time working so much for others that our own sites are last in the queue.
We agreed we had no excuse. Not updating your site is akin to a department store not changing its window displays.
Regular updates are important both for SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and for showing that you’re at home.
My previous blog posts have focussed on automated tools to help you take back control of your site.
For example, to find out what reading level your site’s text is pitched at, try the Readability Test Tool. Or to see how well your site translates to mobiles and tablets, check out Hubspot’s Device Lab as featured in How Good Does Your Site Look on a Mobile?
I’ll continue to blog about automated tools. They’re a great help to website owners who want their websites to work harder.
However, from now on I’ll also share practical tips gleaned from my day-to-day work with SMEs. Whether B2B or B2C, the businesses I work with have in common the fact that, with limited budgets, they improve their sites through incremental changes. Building blocks rather than the Big Bang.
Ten tips to improve the user experience
If you’re a charity, author or SME with a limited budget, here’s a checklist to help. Let’s start with the user experience, a site’s key foundation stone.
1. Adopt a visitor mindset. Your site should be about your visitors, not a showcase for your products or services. One of the most important words to use on a website is ‘you’ (or ‘your’) (rather than ‘we’ or ‘our’). Bufferapp’s post gives other popular words.
2. Don’t irritate visitors with a site that whirrs and grinds into action. Page-loading speed is an important aspect of the user experience as well as a minor factor in SEO. Test your page loading speed using one of the automated tools referred to in this earlier post.
3. Help your visitors by highlighting the purpose of your site. Add a brief description below your website name to summarise what your site’s about. Keep this short and simple, as in Hereford Computer Services’ ‘Home and small business IT support’. Steve Krug’s inspirational book Don’t Make Me Think (revisited) explains why.
4. Avoid roadblocks on your site by ruling out technical problems such as broken or dead links. Automated link checkers made this process easy.
5. Include a phone number on your home page – and every page. Make it easy for your visitors to get in touch without having to fill in an enquiry form. Don’t copy Ryan Air, where the contact number is buried deep within the Contact Us section!
6. Include icons from trade associations, awards or similar on your Home Page in particular – recognisable visual images establish trust. If you’re an ecommerce site you’ll also need payment assurance badges.
7. Include customer testimonials. Research has shown that visitors trust ‘user-generated content’ more than copywriter fluff. The respected Kissmetrics blog quotes a survey stating that 90% of 1,046 participants claimed that positive online reviews influenced their buying decisions. Try shorter quotes on the Home Page and expanded versions elsewhere.
8. Write for the web rather than for conventional print. Web visitors scan rather than read, meaning that website text needs to be shorter (in ‘bite-sized chunks’) and broken up with bullet points and headings.
9. Third-party usability studies (ie a method of checking how easy a visitor finds your site to achieve specific goals) are usually out of the spending league of SMEs. Instead, try a DIY usability study whereby you identify the primary aim of your site (whether to order online, sign up for updates, contact you for further information) and ask a few contacts unfamiliar with your site to try it out. Or for more sophisticated DIY testing, Steve Krug’s Rocket Surgery Made Easy gives step-by-step advice.
10. Finally, check that your site works well on all platforms. There’s no point having the most beautifully designed site that works well on a desktop but not on the increasingly popular tablets or mobiles. Check out: How Good Does Your Site Look on a Mobile?
I hope these tips are helpful. I’d welcome your suggestions of how to improve a website on little or no budget.