Why Having a Pretty Website Means Nothing

Everyone likes feeling good about their website…

I do, people I know do, and I imagine you do as well. Problem #1, most people evaluate their website by how it looks, if it’s visually stunning or if it creates for the owner a moment of pride similar to a good painting or well written song. What we all need to realize is our website is not first a work of art but rather an extension of our business. As a designer, that’s hard for me to say, I like making things that win awards for their beauty. A message to the designers reading this post from their creative cave, our world isn’t the real world. In the real world, websites need to do be something more than nice to look at. So if you’re in the business of making widgets, your site should give you another way to share your passion for making widgets.

So, is that enough? Based on the statement above, we all could build sites and make sure they talk about what we do and feel a sense of accomplishment. But let’s get real for a minute. Who makes widgets solely for the love of making widgets? Most successful businesses I know of find ways to sell the widgets they make, they don’t just do it for free. So why not your website?

At the end of the day you want more than just a website, you want an extension of your business that makes sense to you, your customers and to Google. I say Google because they dominate search as we know it. If or when that changes, it’ll be the next name that dominates the space (Facebook?, who knows).

A website that makes sense to you, the business owner, will feel like an asset not a burden. Talking about your business and website will be easier with a site the whole company can stand behind with confidence. If your website clearly states what you do, it gives every member of staff from the CEO to the janitor a script for talking about the company. Each time they’re asked ‘what does your company do?’, they won’t be shooting from the hip, they’ll have the precise message already on the tip of their tongue. Every company has a core group of followers (groupies) that will always love your brand. What if that ‘brand army’ of yours all said the same thing about you, as one voice. It’s Powerful.

A website that makes sense to your customers is a website that is easy. Easy to navigate, easy to search, easy to read, easy to buy from. A good website not only looks professional (for trust) but must also deliver the important message of what you do. Sometimes it’s a message of what your customer can do. Either way, if you’re making it too difficult to answer that question, you’re failing. Sure you might still get some leads, or some interaction with your traffic, but I’m sure you’d agree that converting 1 of 100 isn’t nearly as nice as converting 1 in every 10.

To illustrate what I’m saying I want you to test something. Type your site url in your preferred browser (firefox for me) and as you press enter, close your eyes. Let your site load with your eyes closed. Once you’re sure it’s ready to view, give your eyes 2 seconds to decide what the site is telling you to do next. Yes, what your site tells the visitor to do next is where many websites fail. Either they don’t do it at all or they are saying too much at once. A menu with 20 equal value propositions, means none eclipse 5% value on their own. Too many choices often leads to 1 choice, the visitor clicking the back button. We all do it, we all say ‘get me outta here’ when we find junk. Don’t expect your visitor to do any different. If your site isn’t clear in those 2 seconds, you potentially lost your visitor. FYI, 2 seconds is a VERY generous testing environment. Most visitors know what they want to see in < 1sec.

A website that makes sense to Google is a website that showcases your authority in what you do. Authority? Yes. Authority. Think about it next time you’re comparing similar products made by different manufacturers. In the end the product that gets purchased most of the time was the one that convinced you it was worthy. Sometimes we find out later that we’ve been duped, and purchased a lemon. Go ahead and dislike the product, but don’t discredit the job that company did in making you a believer. Make Google a believer. Because this post is about conversion and not SEO I’ll keep ‘how to make Google a believer’ for a later post. I will however share a nutshell of it now.

If Google says, “this is what you should do with _____ “, it’s probably a pretty good idea to develop a plan for your website to adopt their guideline. First, think about ‘why?’ Google might be saying it, does it line up with their efforts to improve search, serve the most relevant pages for a query, further establish their brand as a leader in search, eliminate the spammers trying to game the search engines? Google’s intention is to get websites to not only conform to their needs as a search engine, but also to help you create a better website. Most times, this means a website is alot of things before it is pretty: fast loading, structured correctly, simple to navigate, and easily crawlable. Nowhere in the guidelines does it say that you site must be pretty to be found.

Problem #2, Most websites begin with design. Learn in the next part on this topic how a website should begin if not in the design phase. Oh, one more thing, when it is design phase – why you shouldn’t start with the homepage.

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