Fewer than 60% of small businesses have a website... I know, shocking! Of course, having a business website can be extremely beneficial, but often that's only half the battle.
Whilst a small business website needn't have the glamour and functionality that the big boys sometimes do, that doesn't excuse you from providing the kind of experience modern tech savvy surfers expect.
Complacency when it comes to your website is not usually catastrophic, but it is an avoidable danger. In the age of infinite consumer and business choices, it is an unacceptable risk for your venture.
Your website will often be the first time that customers encounter your business; therefore it plays a considerable role in shaping their perception of it.
To get your creative juices flowing, here are a few suggestions of how you can make sure your business website is delivering the benefits that it should; not a definitive list mind you, just a little nudge in the right direction. Please tweet out your best advice @ClubWorkspace.
BE CLEAR ABOUT WHAT YOU DO
We've all had that experience; visiting a website, clicking around for a while and then navigating away, no more informed about what the business actually does than when we arrived. It's incredibly frustrating. There have been many studies compiled which discuss the waning of our online attention spans and the results are invariably the same; it takes just a few seconds for a visitor to completely lose interest in your business and hop to another that is clearer and easier to navigate. As a happy outcome most businesses are becoming ever more proficient in ensuring that their message is delivered as soon as possible, in a way that is accessible and easy to understand.
Is your site the best brand ambassador?
The specifics will vary from business to business, but a good place to start is trying to take an objective view of your home page and be critical about whether or not it is serving its purpose as an ambassador for your business. Is it clear what your business actually does? Is your eye drawn to the key information that you want your visitors to see? Is there any ambiguity that might be cause for confusion?
These are all fairly obvious questions but when you are as close to a project as many people are to their websites, there is a real danger that you will miss problems which are highly conspicuous to an unfamiliar eye. That's why outsider feedback can be crucial in ensuring that any you don't miss things that could be potentially off-putting to would-be customers or clients.
Get honest feedback
Pick a few people that you can trust to be honest, and make sure they know that any criticism will be welcomed as a way to improve the business.
KEEP DESCRIPTIONS SIMPLE
The temptation is to create War and Peace style descriptions of your products, services, business journey, team, and so forth, but when this gets in the way of clarity, you have a big problem. Exercising your powers of descriptive prose is what your blog is for, the functional areas of your website should be kept squeaky clean, uncluttered, and above all true to their purpose.
Your prospective customers simply don't have, or are unwilling to spend, the time to sift through reams of information regarding all the finer details if your products and services, their conceptions, and how they have changed over time. They want the key facts and they want them now.
Here a little exercise in word frugality can be a real help. Trim down your descriptions by asking yourself 'does the visitor need to know this?' and remove anything that could be seen to get in the way of the key information.
BE OPTIMISED FOR MOBILE
One of the most crucial modern factors to ensure good rankings is how well optimised your site is for mobile browsing. The reason for this is that 60% of internet browsing is now done on a mobile device, so the appearance of your site on devices such as smart phones and tablets is just as, if not more important than its appearance on traditional desktops.
From a visitor's perspective a site which isn't well optimised for mobile browsing is a digital turn-off. Images look wrong, text is difficult to read, navigation becomes a nightmare and understandably people are tempted to give up and go elsewhere. This is a shame because with just a little investment of your time, you can fix some of the more nagging issues and provide your visitors with a much more seamless and pleasant experience.
The most obvious and fruitful place to start is getting a clear sense of how your website looks on a wide range of devices. This is easy enough to do with a little help from your friends and co-workers, who I'm sure, will be happy to oblige you in a little investigation.
This should help you to identify what the most major issues are, so you can set about correcting them.
Google has created an indispensable tool for assisting you in your mobile optimisation, which, whilst geared towards improving your position in search rankings, will simultaneously lend a hand with improving the overall quality of your site when viewed on mobile devices.
The Web Master Mobile Guide allows you to submit pages from your website for assessment of their mobile optimisation; this will give you a percentage score describing how well the page appears on mobile devices. It will also make helpful suggestions of how it could be improved and provide a handy guide to help get you started making positive changes. If you haven't had a look yet, add it to your to-do list, it will be well worth the effort.
SORT OUT A KILLER 'ABOUT' PAGE
I don't know about you, but I usually find myself scanning the homepage of a website looking for an 'About us' page, either out of curiosity or to quash any nagging doubts that I may have. This is often make or break for me, if I don’t like what I see, then I’ll be gone in a flash and may never return.
This is the point at which it is appropriate, nay expected that you will tell your business story and bring a spot of personality to the enterprise; if someone has navigated to this area of your website then they are most certainly interested to learn more. The irony is, that this indispensable and hugely important aspect of any business website is the one that is usually most neglected, as it can be perceived as ‘out of the way’ or ‘not really part of the overall site’... big mistake!
There are three things that you should be trying to get across in your ‘About’ page:
A) Who you are
B) What your business is, and
C) How you stand out from your competitors.
Once you have achieved these core objectives, you can breathe some life into the content, by thinking about some of these;
- Who are the people who make up your business?
- What sort of people are they and what can customers expect of them?
- What is your business’s greatest achievement / what are you most proud of? What are you most proud of as an organisation?
- What is your enterprise 'ethos'? What matters most to you as a business?
Adopt a tone that is in keeping with the overall formality level of your business but never be afraid to show some personality; after all people like to know who they will be working with. Photographs can be really useful as well, just make sure that they convey properly the image of your business that you are trying to create.
Eoin O'Hara is a business developer and lead content writer at Startacus.net. He has a background combining arts and culture with strategic business development, and now plays a central role in the growth of the Startacus brand. Startacus.net, The Self Start Society, is the place for enterprising people to learn, share, connect and bring ideas to life. Follow them at @Iamstartacus