5 ways to ensure your website meets customer expectations
Before you start designing a website you need to know who your target audience is, and how you can help them. So, how can you ensure your site is user-friendly and meets, or exceeds your customer expectations?
The most important factor when designing a website is to know your target audience, and what it is they want. Your site needs to tick all the boxes, so that a potential customer can make an informed decision about buying your products or services. One of the first steps in this process is to make sure your website is user-focussed, and does not frustrate them so much that they go to elsewhere!
A bit like me today, trying to find the answer to a graph-design question that’s stopping me finish a client project. Grrrr..!
Before you do anything website or social media related you need to understand who your target audience is. Otherwise you could be wasting a lot of time, effort and money marketing in areas where you will see little or no return for your investment.
You need to know who is your typical customer, how old they are, where do they spend most of their online time? And what makes them tick? What problems might they have that would make them visit your website? Once you understand what they want, it will be much easier to plan your site’s content and design.
Keep it tidy
Whether you’re designing a new website, or looking to update an existing one, spend time fine-tuning your content. What pages should you include, and what can you say that will help to sell your products or services? Keep your content concise and your website uncluttered.
Don’t put in too many distractions that will confuse, or make people forget the reasons they came to your website. If your goal is to sell a product think about why they might want to buy it? How will it help to improve their home, business or family lives? Cut out or rewrite any content that might navigate your potential customer away from your site. I have reviewed so many business websites that include links to others. There’s nothing wrong with linking if it’s going to provide relevant information, that helps your customer solve a problem. But just bear in mind that once they navigate away from your website, you risk losing them completely. And you could miss out on that all important sale.
Make it accessible
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 1 billion people live with a disability. That can include people who have problems with vision, hearing or physical disabilities. One of the top issues that could impact your site visitors is visual impairment. Colour-blindness is a particularly common problem, so try and avoid certain colours like red and green, if possible. Make sure the font size is legible, and that hyperlinks and Call to Action buttons (CTAs) are not too close together.
Further help can be provided to assist the visually-impaired by making sure you add descriptive ‘alt-text’ to your images. This text is used by screen-reader tools and can help people who are blind to understand more of the information on a page.
There are a number of easy tests you can perform yourself to check if your website is accessible or not. But, if like me you are a single entrepreneur, and your family time is a precious commodity, then I’m more than happy to execute the tests for you, and provide a complete website accessibility report. Just drop me an email or give me a call to arrange a chat.
With more and more people using handheld devices to browse and buy online, your website must be mobile-friendly. Responsive website design means that whatever size of screen people are using to view your site, the images and text are automatically resized. This makes it much easier to load, read and navigate. If your site isn’t a responsive design, then your visitors will quickly lose interest and bounce merrily away to your competitor’s website.
Most self-build website tools have responsive design already included, with options for you to view your site on desktop, mobile or notepad before you publish. If you have that option on your content management system, WordPress, Wix, etc., then I recommend that you use it. Check your content and media display correctly, heading don’t fall off the screen and CTAs are in the right place. If you’re not sure if your business site is mobile-friendly there are a number of free tools you can use to check it. Alternatively, I offer a free website review which includes testing that your site renders correctly on mobile devices.
Give instant feedback
This might seem like an unusual item to add, but to me it’s as important as all the others I have mentioned.
If you have ever completed an online form, and not received on page confirmation that the action has been successful, you have two options. Fill everything in again and hope it confirms the second time round. Or don’t bother. There’s also a third option which is just picking up the phone, but it’s less likely to happen, unless someone desperately wants to buy something you offer.
It’s important that your site visitors see an instant response when they fill in a form or click on a link, to know it works. So test your site frequently. Because there is nothing more frustrating than a website that doesn’t work properly.
A happy customer is a returning customer.
You must meet user expectations, and if possible, go above and beyond what people are expecting. Test all of the elements of your site thoroughly to make sure everything works as it should do. Don’t brush little niggly problems under the carpet, thinking people won’t care, because they will. Poor grammar, spelling errors and things that don’t work as they should do, can make your website look unprofessional. And it might give them the same impression about you.
For your free, no-obligation, website review, just phone, or send me an email. Find out how I can help boost your online business !
“Shirley at SAA I.T provides an excellent service. Her test report was clear and detailed. I was very impressed by the advice, solutions and instructions – I was able to apply many of the devices. However, with my work commitments I decided to hand over the website and let Shirley work her magic. In much faster time than me, Shirley designed and developed it into a professional website that will be a great asset to my business.”
Back in the old days, when I was a test consultant in the UK, it was probably easy to describe a normal testing day. But here in France my work has changed so much, and all for the better. Instead of working for large companies, my focus is now on helping small businesses improve their online presence. So let me try and tell you, in a few words, what a typical testing day is like.
I’m not a good sleeper. My head hits the pillow and I can be asleep in a few minutes, but it’s staying asleep that’s my problem. And I wish I could blame it on something – old age my husband says. I usually wake around 4 or 5am most days, lie there for an hour and eventually I get up, as quietly as possible. I’m so practiced at these ninja-like manoeuvres I could probably serve in the S.A.S. I slide from the bed, pick up my mobile from the bedside cabinet, nip to the loo and then glide stealthily across creaking floorboards, all by the dim light of my Fitbit.
So by the time my other half wakes up at 7am, (because I always forgot to unset the alarm) I have generally logged on to my PC, had a shot of strong black coffee and checked emails in my four personal and business mailboxes.
Next task in my typical testing day? Social Media!
Trying to produce interesting and entertaining posts for my own business pages, as well as client ones isn’t as easy as it might sound. And when you have to publish something every day then it can be a bit daunting. However, what I generally do about once a week is spend a day researching topical and trending items, that are relevant to the business pages I manage. I post on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest and Google My Business (GMB) for myself and some clients. Luckily, with Facebook and Instagram, posts can be scheduled in advance, which means I get them all done in a morning and only have to publish on LinkedIn and GMB daily. But usually I have already picked the images, ‘inspirational quotes’, and drafted the content at the start of the week.
We moved to France in 2017 and I will make an effort to have a conversation in French with my friends and neighbours. Not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because I know they have led such interesting and varied lives, and I want to hear their stories. So I have 2 hours of lessons on a Monday morning – which definitely helps to exercise the brain cells. Plus there is regular homework to fit into a testing day. But I’m not complaining, I just wish I could learn quicker so I could chat with the neighbours about something other than the weather! Big shout out toLaetitia Poulter my very patient French tutor.
As you have probably noticed, it’s been a while since I wrote my own blog, but only because I’m regularly creating blogs for my clients. Blogging can take up a lot of time, especially if the client wants a specific topic covered which requires extensive research. But I enjoy writing, and I have received some great feedback from my clients and their readers, which makes everything worthwhile.
Great website report by Shirley. Very thorough and easy to read and implement. It was essential to have a pair of expert eyes review my website and there were quite a few quick fixes that I made after Shirley’s report. The report covered loading speed, functionality, spelling, grammar amongst many other tests
A lot of my work comes as a result of the free business website reviews that I offer. I advertise the review service on my website and social media, and in particular, on several Facebook business groups. On average I can probably get through two website review per testing day. Anyone can ask for a review and they will receive my honest and unbiased feedback. I try not to criticise people because the majority of these business owners are individual entrepreneurs like myself, and have never built their own website before. So it’s a massive achievement for anyone to do that on top of all the other day to day business tasks, and taking care of their family.
However, there are those who seem to make it their daily mission to upset or publicly belittle others. And it was finding out how demoralised one of my clients felt when this happened to her that really brought home to me how distressing negative feedback can be. So I always word my feedback reports carefully, and I highlight the good points as well as the not so good. I also make a point of telling them that, at the end of the day, it’s only my opinion but as a visitor – and potential customer – to their website. If they don’t agree with the comments they don’t have to take any action, and I don’t get upset about it. In most instances, I’m happy to say that people do accept the feedback in the way I hope it should be taken, which is as constructive, not destructive, criticism.
So far, I have not had a bad review, but if and when I do then I will act on their comments, and respond in a positive and professional manner (whilst silently slapping myself around the head).
As I touched on earlier, some of my paid work comes from the free reviews. If someone has struggled to publish their website in the first place, it can be a daunting task having to make changes to fix any layout or navigation issues that I might have found. So they ask me if I can help them out. To be honest, this works well for everyone. I learn about different website design tools, apps and search engine optimisation (SEO), they get an improved site and their customers get a better user experience. It’s a win-win situation.
The biggest advantage for me in doing the website reviews is that I find out about new businesses, great products and services that I might not have noticed before. And I have even bought from a few of them! Whether I buy something or not, I will always try to ‘like and share’ their business pages and posts to give them a bit of a boost. If 2020 has taught me one thing, it is to try and support small businesses as much as possible.
Picky or perfectionist?
I have lost a client this year because they couldn’t keep up with home and business expenses during COVID-19 lockdown. I’ve heard of so many others that have closed permanently. And if it wasn’t for the fact that I can work from home, then it could easily have been me. The support of family, good friends and loyal clients has got us through this dreadful year. Yes, we have had to claim some help from the government during the worst months, but thankfully my regular client work has kept our heads above water. I have also been fortunate enough to pick up some software testing work for a large pharmaceutical company, thanks to a recommendation from an old work colleague. But testing in any shape or form makes me happy. I love finding bugs and helping to put things right. My husband says it’s because I’m picky and I have OCD, I prefer to say it’s because I’m a perfectionist. I’m still working on getting him right – but that’s another story and a different kind of testing day, and a long-term project!
I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog. If you didn’t like it please let me know. And if you did like it, then can you also let me know.
Maybe our fear of criticism goes back to our school days. Spending hours writing essays only to have them marked and returned with lots of red lines and teacher’s comments.
I’ve also been subjected to a wide variety of appraisals and work reviews in the different organisations I have worked for. Most of them provided encouraging, constructive criticism and feedback, especially in my early years in the Civil Service. And yet I still used to dread the annual Performance Appraisal Reviews and the fear of criticism. I imagine we are all the same. We think – hope! – we are doing a good job, but when there’s a review on the horizon we start to worry about getting negative feedback.
I was very lucky to be assigned to experienced managers who understood the difference between constructive and destructive criticism and how it can affect a person’s self-esteem. Their feedback encouraged my personal development and gave me the confidence to take on new challenges throughout my career and in my personal life.
However, there is one incident which stands out in my mind more than any other because of the way it made me feel. Little did I realise that how I felt at that moment was going to influence how I treated people I worked with in the future.
In my first contract as a freelance Test Consultant I was working for a very large corporate company. The job meant I was working away from home, with people I didn’t know and learning a new complex system. Everything was different, I was way out of my comfort zone but wanted to make a good impression because this was the career I loved.
What I didn’t bank on was being assigned to a manager who let her personal life interfere with her professional life, to the extent that on her bad days, she publicly criticised and humiliated people. Less than a week into my new role, I was verbally attacked in a room full of people – because I had saved a file in the wrong place. She should have quietly point out the correct folder structure, but instead she shouted, finger-pointed and called me an ‘over-paid simpleton’.
I sat there open-mouthed and fighting back the tears. People were staring at me. I felt embarrassed and physically sick. I couldn’t even manage an easy escape because the door was the other side of the room. Instead I bit my lip, walked over to her desk, and I asked her quietly and apologetically if she could show me where the file should be. After correcting my mistake I walked down to the Ladies loo on the floor below and cried my eyes out. I had never felt so humiliated in all my life and convinced myself I was going to get sacked. I left work that day ready to pack my bags and even started looking for a new contract!
The next day she acted as if nothing had happened. No apology was ever forthcoming but it occurred so frequently, with different people, that eventually she was reported and moved to another area. Under a new, encouraging, more professional manager I became a team leader and stayed with that company for two years. I learnt new skills and gained knowledge and experience using new testing tools, but the most important thing I learnt was how to give feedback.
If you have single-handedly set up your own business, set up Social Media accounts, manage the financial affairs and created your own website, hats off to you. You deserve a massive pat on the back. It doesn’t matter what line of business you are in (unless you are a web designer!) or how well you are doing. You have successfully done something a lot of people can’t or won’t do for various reasons, and one of those reasons is fear of criticism.
When you’re starting out, you know a business website is an essential marketing tool, but a good web designer costs money – even bad web designers cost money! And although it’s a recognisable investment, if you can’t afford it, your only option is to go it alone.
There are lots of sites, like Wix and WordPress, which can help you create a simple, straight-forward website. Don’t let them fool you into thinking it’s an easy task. You still have to think about what pages you need, getting the right template, writing the content, uploading images, etc. Maybe that doesn’t sound too difficult, but if your website is going to stand out from your competitors then it needs to be aesthetically pleasing and easy to use.
So, now we’ve added a couple of plug-ins and widgets to improve the website ‘look and feel’ and it’s ready for publishing. Who are the first people we ask for feedback? Our friends and family of course. Because of our fear of criticism we can rely on them to be positive – and even if they are really honest, we know it will be in a nice, positive way. But does that mean we are already worrying too much about what other people think and, more importantly, what our customers think?
What is Criticism?
Negative criticism from an unqualified, uninformed source is of so little value that it’s meaningless. It makes zero sense to pay it any of your valuable attention.
As a small business owner we have to learn to deal with these fears, because as soon as your business is online it’s visible and open to criticism. So to survive it’s essential that you stop negative criticism from affecting you.
To do this try to understand more about the critic than the criticism. If they are an expert in their field then, even if their comment is negative, it might be something worth taking onboard. The key difference between criticism and feedback is our perception of it.
Criticism is often taken to mean that we are being judged by another person in a condescending manner. So when people are criticised by others it can be a fairly unpleasant experience for the receiver.
Destructive criticism doesn’t help anyone. In fact it can lower a person’s self-esteem and make them feel like a failure. Constructive criticism, on the other hand can help to develop the abilities of that person, and create a positive change.
What is Feedback?
Feedback is generally understood to be information that can improve the performance or development of a product or a person. For example, a company has released a new product on the market and wants to evaluate the public’s response. There are different ways to go about this. They might hold a small event where samples of the product are given to members of the public and they have to provide feedback. The company can then understand how well the product has been received and act on this feedback.
For people, a manager might give feedback in a personal appraisal, or to a group of employees when they complete a new project. A lot of companies hold one-off, end of project ‘Lessons Learned’ sessions. Key stakeholders are asked to provide feedback for the project as a whole – what went well or not so well and what can be improved.
Lessons learned is all about understanding what you all did right and what you all could have done better. It’s not about finger pointing. It’s about learning. And this is why, when I perform my business website reviews, my feedback report isn’t all about what is wrong with the website. It’s about pointing out what works really well and what can be improved.
I always ask for feedback and, from what I’ve received, the majority of my clients generally agree with my comments. Issues are fixed, suggestions for re-wording are applied, website layout and functionality is improved. A lot of the changes are quick, easy, inexpensive and effective.
Very occasionally they don’t want to make any changes, which is fine. I’m not going to force my opinions on anybody. However I will point out that if one of the issues is that your website is not legally compliant, then that is not just my opinion. It’s the law!
One of the reasons behind this post is a conversation I had recently with a new client. She admits she’s not technically minded but has still managed to build her own website. However, when she saw that someone on Facebook had left a rather derogatory comment, she was understandably upset and demoralised. Personally, having just started my review of the site, she has done a bloody good job and we’ll work together to make it even better!
If you’ve never received bad feedback maybe you don’t have a fear of criticism, and you’re incredibly lucky. Your parents and teachers must have been a lot nicer than mine. But next time you leave a review or a comment, if you know it’s a small business, try and be a bit more considerate. Your criticisms can be hurtful and demoralising. I appreciate it’s not always easy, especially if you’ve had bad customer service, but imagine how you would feel if you were being publicly humiliated.
I know how I felt and it’s not something I would even wish on my worst enemy.
‘Sharing is Caring’
If you like this article let me know – and let your friends know!
When you first published your business website who did you ask to check it out for you? In the majority of cases, if you are a small business owner it would probably have been close friends or family. And I don’t blame you, because I did the same. But unless they have website user testing experience then their feedback is likely to have been clouded by loyalty and emotion.
They’re your friends and if you were just starting out, they’re not going to say anything negative to dampen your enthusiasm.
Same with me – to a certain extent. As an experienced user tester I always provide honest, constructive feedback. But whether it’s as a friend or a paid test analyst, I try to do it without sounding too critical. And I don’t just give negative feedback. I always report back on the positive aspects too.
Get an unbiased view
Having a fresh and impartial pair of eyes assessing your website will find issues that could affect your customer’s experience. A poor customer experience will generate bad reviews and it will impact your sales. Outsourcing the validation of your website to an independent user testing expert will give you an unbiased, unambiguous view of your business website, its strengths and its weaknesses.
“According to research by McKinsey, an incredible 35 per cent of Amazon’s sales come from recommendations.
More and more e-commerce businesses, small and large, are outsourcing their user experience (UX) testing to third-party testing service providers and business website user testing is one of the services that I provide.
Initially I will look at your website and comment on my first impressions and then I will consider the most important factors for a well-designed business website.
Can I tell in a few seconds what it is your business provides?
Are there any customer reviews?
Can I find what I’m looking for quickly and easily?
I’ll check whether the site is secure, if there is a data protection policy and, if it’s a commercial site, that all your general terms and conditions of sale are prominently displayed – payment options, refunds and exchanges, cost of delivery, after-sales service, etc.
What do you want your customers to do?
User testing helps you understand how a customer might interact with your site. It covers the main steps a customer might go through such as selecting one or more items, choosing sizes, adding them to the shopping cart and going to the payment process.
The user journeys can be different every time. If there are different paths through the process, then there will be multiple user tests. And if there is an issue at any point this will be brought to your attention in the feedback report.
A bad customer experience will result in lost sales, bad reviews and more revenue for your competitors. Is that what you want? Or would you prefer to have an increase in sales, good reviews and recommendations, and a loyal customer base that trusts you to provide a secure, reliable service?
Find out how my user testing experience can help you improve your customer’s experience.
I pick one from the list ‘The Marker Hotel’. It’s a bit out of my price range but the room photo has piqued my interest. There are over 1000 photos, but check out the Room/Suite ones and tell me which ones you prefer. Scroll through them and it’s pretty obvious which are professional and which are guests photos.
If you’re looking for a hotel you don’t just want to see a hotel room. You want to see the bathroom, the dining room, the pool and spa facilities. But they have to be captivating, good quality images in order to entice you in, like The Marker Hotel.
Now apply that principle and search for your product. Better still get someone else to search for your product and give you their honest feedback.
Regardless of what you are ‘selling’, good quality images are going to catch the shopper’s attention before they read the description. You need to showcase the whole product, from different angles, and in different settings if possible. Think about what you would want to see as a potential buyer.
“We are highly visual creatures and repeatedly buy with our eyes. This is especially true when it’s time to book a hotel room. Potential guests want to see where they will be staying”.
Hiring a professional photographer might sound like an unnecessary expense but, if you want to boost your sales, your photos need to be good quality images. High resolution digital photos will give sharper results, and hiring a professional photographer may turn out to be the best business investment you ever made. Ask for recommendations, check out their website portfolio and chat with them about your product requirements.
If you want to boost your sales, think like your customer or ask someone else to. Then act on their feedback.
Most buyers are looking for inspiration so good quality images will capture their attention and help to create a picture perfect ordering experience!
I hope you found this article useful.
If you think there is anything that could have been better, let me know.
From 1982 until 1997 I worked for the civil service in local benefit office on the North Wales coast and also on a 2 year secondment to the Regional Implementation Team based in Cardiff, for the roll out of the Income Support system.
In 1997, still working for the civil service, I took on my first testing role with DWP at their I.T. headquarters in Lancashire initially testing enhancements to the Income Support benefit system, but I also worked on the test teams for Social Fund, Jobseeker’s Allowance and Child Support. I left the civil service in 2000 and joined an I.T company in Manchester as a Test Consultant, I also worked briefly for EDS (now Hewlett Packard) and eventually set up my own Test Consultancy business in 2001.
Just a few of the companies I have worked for:
BT – Home Office – DWP – GE – HSBC – AutoTrader – e-VMT – BJSS – IBM (Curam) – HSBC
Until we moved permanently to France in 2017 I worked across the full complement of testing phases throughout the complete end-to-end testing life-cycle including : integration, functional, non-functional, regression, performance and user testing. Now my focus is User Testing and putting my testing experience and attention to detail to good use, helping business owners create a great customer experience and improve their business online presence.
I always ask my clients to provide feedback, because if they are not satisfied with the services I have provided then I make every possible effort to improve them.
My aim is to help you improve the quality of your customer’s experience and increase the visibility of your business by providing expert advice and offering a range of affordable solutions and services.