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 !
Owning and creating your own business website may sound daunting and expensive. But the beauty of it is that you have control of your own destiny. You own it – lock, stock and barrel. If anything goes wrong then it’s generally user error fault, but it is recoverable. The recent Facebook server outage will have given all small business owners a wake-up call. The crash was global and impacted Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram. The main advertising and sales outlets for many businesses. Fortunately it was fairly short-lived, but what if it had been longer term, a few days or even a week? How would your business have coped?
We are bombarded everyday by notifications from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc that I wonder how small businesses ever survived before the internet. But they did, and that’s because they made the most of their physical location, sold goods that their customers wanted and thrived on providing good customer service. They were also local and most shops were within easy walking distance for busy Mums and Dads. Nowadays the local shop owner has to compete with global mega-corporates who have automated manufacturing processes that churn out throwaway goods. And they have multimillion dollar advertising budgets. How can we compete?
Social Media business accounts are quick to set up; they’re fairly easy to manage, and free to run (at the minute). But what happens when they change their policies or accidentally delete your account? It does happen, and when it does you could lose your whole business profile, contacts, showroom, pricing, customers. All gone without even saying goodbye.
Personally, I think we can still give our customers what they want without relying solely on social media. But to do that we need to create a great customer experience, have control over our virtual shopfront and be open 24/7 (not literally). I’m talking about having our own website. Ultimately, social media should only be used for the free advertising, building good customer relationships, and driving people to the website.
Choosing a website designer
Once you have made the decision to have your own business website, for it to be a success I recommend using a professional web designer. It doesn’t have to be a big company and it doesn’t necessarily have to be someone local either. However, it can be more beneficial to have someone based in the same country. Because a) if you have any problems they’re in the same time zone and b) they should be familiar with the website legalities for your country.
What else do you need to know? Knowing how much they charge would be a good start, but there a few other questions you should be asking too.
What’s included in the price?
Does it include registering a domain? Will the domain (mybusiness.com) be registered to you? Does is include hosting? 24/7 support? Does it include Search Engine Optimisation? Does it include making changes if you don’t like the first draft? If any of these service aren’t included ask how much extra they cost, and get everything in writing.
How long have they been in business?
You want someone that’s been around a while, experienced and isn’t going to disappear in a couple of weeks. Ask for recommendations and also ask to see their portfolio. Do they have designs that appeal to you? Do the websites look professional? Can you view the websites fully on different devices – laptop, mobiles, tablets? Ask them about Responsive Website Design. If they don’t know what you are talking about, then don’t even think about using them.
What do they need from you?
Obviously if you are paying for a service you want to have some input. You’re the business owner, you know your business and should have an idea of the kind of image you want to present. You need to get this across to your website designer and make sure they understand it fully. Show them some websites that you like the look of and ask them whether they will be writing the content or whether you need to provide it. Have you got a logo? What about your colour scheme?
Most of the web designers that I have spoken to about Cookie and Privacy policies have informed me that it is the client that should tell them if and how they want the cookie banner to be displayed. The onus is on the website owner to make sure the website is legally compliant, not the web designer. So please, bear this in mind and check out the legalities for French business sites
How long is it going to take?
Before you part with any money find out how long it will take them? There’s no point placing an order for a website if it isn’t going to be ready when you need to start advertising your products and services. They need to fit your timetable, not the other way around.
How I can help
I have worked closely with several web designers over the years and I now focus on website usability testing. This is reviewing business websites from the customer or user perspective. If you need any web designer recommendations from me then just ask. I’m always happy to help and can give you some hints and tips on what to look for in a designer’s portfolio. I also offer a free business website review. So if you already have a website but want to know if there are any issues, drop me a line. That’s what I’m here for – supporting small business owners like you and me.
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Do you remember my last article on Website Legalities? It covered the privacy laws relating to Cookies and Privacy Policies and the mandatory details you have to display on your business website. If that was a lot to take in, well sadly for the individual entrepreneur there is a lot more you need to know.
For all activity types – Commercial, Craft and Regulated – your business website must display the following mandatory identity details:
Name and Surname
Telephone Number and Email Address
Name of the Director, and name of any co-director or editor if there is one
Name, company address and phone number of your business website host.
Additionally, for the type of activity you are registered to carry out, you must display the following mandatory Activity information:
Registration number in trade and companies register
Individual tax identification number
General Terms and Conditions of Sale, including price in euros, Tax, delivery costs, date of delivery, payment terms, after-sales service, right of withdrawal, duration of any offers, the cost for phone calls (standard call charges, etc).
Registration number in the trades directory
Or registration number in the register of companies of the chambers of trades in the departments of Moselle, Bas-Rhin and Haut-Rhin.
Reference to applicable professional rules
Indication of professional title
Name of the EU state in which the professional title was granted
Name of the order or organisation with which a registration was made
This article covers the information required for individual entrepreneurs. There are other mandatory requirements for companies registered in France. All the information for individuals and companies can be found on the Service-Public.Fr site.
Best case, if you don’t comply you will get fined €1500. But do you really want to be worrying about getting caught?
Worse case, if you’re found to be processing data without authorisation you could get 5 years’ imprisonment and a €300,000 fine.
I’m including this category for completeness. Personal blogs are slightly different. You are not obliged to reveal your identity, but you can still be fined.
If you decide to remain anonymous, then you only have to display the identity details of your website host. Your hosting company has to have your identification details in case of legal proceedings.
If you don’t want to remain anonymous then you have to provide your identification details. Name, Surname, Home Address, Phone Number and Email Address.
Non-compliance for personal blogs may result in a year in prison and a €75,000 fine.
Let’s be honest. Do you think that posting the occasional out of focus photo on Facebook or Instagram is a very effective marketing strategy? I have even seen photos uploaded that are not the right way up and have to tried to tilt my phone and my neck to see what it is.
Apart from being a fool for twisting my neck, more importantly, if someone can’t spend a few minutes preparing a quick post I don’t want to do business with them.
I’ve posted a few blogs recently about improving content with professional photography, planning your content, etc. And when the following article landed in my mailbox it tied all of these topics together and also provided some ‘Visual Best Practices’. There’s not only information on how to define your content marketing strategy, but a great visual of a mind-map to go with it!
If you put in a little thought, time and effort into what you publish, people are going to remember it more. They will link great visual content to your business and you will stand out over your competitors. Think of it as telling a visual story.
What images can you use to help to improve your text content and make it more memorable?
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What can you do that is different from what everyone else is doing?
Whether it’s now or in the next 6 months, most small and medium-sized businesses are going to have a few obstacles to overcome. Maybe now is a good time to get creative – start thinking about what it is we do and how can we improve it.
Running a business is hard work. It’s not just doing the jobs that bring the money in, it’s marketing, paying taxes on time, working with suppliers, etc. We learn how to manage these activities, but when something we have no control over impacts our business that’s when we need to stop and think. The situation we now find ourselves in, through no fault of our own, needs to be managed, otherwise not only will our businesses suffer, but our health will suffer too. I’m in the same boat, and I don’t know how I’m going to pay the bills this month. But I’m trying to stay positive. I’m fit and healthy. We have a place to live and food in the freezer. I’ve arranged meetings with the bank and insurance agent to discuss our finances and there’s government aid we can apply for.
“Being creative can involve cooking a meal from scratch, creating a novel marketing campaign, making up a bedtime story for your child, finding ways to cut costs, or even developing a creative solution to a negotiation impasse. Whatever you do, creativity helps you do it better.”
We’re not the only ones in this situation and that bizarrely is what is making me think positively. Now, I need to channel my positivity into creativity. I’m off to do some mind-mapping to jog my creativity.
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.
Business Logo – if you’ve got one try and place it in the top left corner so it’s the first thing people see. Don’t surround it with clutter, let it stand out. but don’t make it the size of a billboard. Think Quality not Quantity.
Site Menu – keep it simple and use familiar terms, like About Us, Services, Accommodation, Gallery, Contact, Location, etc
Main Image or ‘Hero Shot’ – this should be the most important aspect of your homepage so make it good. Select your image carefully because this is the focal point of your window display and helps tempt customers into your shop.
Headline – place it above, below or within the main image. Keep it short but make it about reader – what can you offer them?
Call to Action (CTA) button – It’s called an Action button for exactly that reason, but what do you want them to do? Don’t just say ‘Click here’, be intentional – ‘Show me’, ‘Get a Quote’, ‘Find out more’.
Blog – having a blog increases engagement with your visitors so include links to recent posts. Hopefully if they like them they’ll sign-up
Introduction – start your conversation with your visitor but keep it concise, informative and friendly. What can you offer them?
Portfolio – if your business offers products or services that can be showcased with images or descriptions then add them, but don’t overdo. If there’s a lot direct them with a CTA ‘Show Me More’.
Everybody loves a freebie
Offer – feature an offer, maybe a free trial or money off. Everybody loves a freebie and it will help generate leads which can turn into more business, more referrals, more income.
Social Proof – Reviews, ratings, number of satisfied customers, awards, press releases. If you’ve got it, flaunt it!
Footer – always create a footer and consider which elements you’ll include – contact info, social media icons, email subscription, links to latest blog, awards (Social Proof).
Business Website Homepage
Whether you already have your own business website, or you are creating a new one, think carefully about the homepage design and how you are going to entice customers into your online shop. Certain key design components should be included but overall it’s best to keep the page small, but strong.
The best window displays aren’t accidentally designed and chaotic. They’re carefully intended to highlight the business’ best products and services in a way that is pleasing to the eye and tempts us to go inside.
Before we look at what key design components should be included on your business homepage, let’s think about the content and the purpose of your homepage.
Wherever you share the link for your business website inevitably it will navigate the visitor to your homepage, so imagine it’s your shopfront. When we’re window-shopping there has to be something of interest to encourage us to go into the shop. Visually or verbally you need to have something on display which is going to entice the customer in.
What do I offer?
What will make someone choose my business over my competitor offering the same products or services?
What kind of business image do I want to portray – honest, reliable, trustworthy, value-for-money, family-friendly?
If I advertise myself as a professional – define ‘professional’ – what do I do that I consider to be professional?
What time is the shop open?
Less Is More
If you are not confident in writing your content then hire someone to write it for you, because poorly written content is bad for your image. You want people to remember your business for your products, not your spelling mistakes. If you decide to do it yourself then write it in a word or google document first and make sure the spell-checker is on. There are other free tools you can use, such as Grammarly, which will even suggest ways of re-wording sentences too. Be careful though, because sometimes tools can suggest incorrect changes, e.g. if the term you want to use is in French, such as place names.
I would also recommend you ask an outsider to review your content. Let them view the page and tell you what their first impressions are and give you honest feedback.
Is it clear what you do?
Too much or too little information?
Is it easy to read?
Include as many of the key design components as you can. Keep the whole page short, strong and to the point. Sell yourself but don’t over-exaggerate. Don’t lie about your experience and definitely do not belittle your competitors.
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As a training officer one of the first things I said to my new trainees was ‘The only stupid question is the one that isn’t asked’. That quote came from someone that trained me to be a training officer (whose name I can’t remember now) and I still apply it to this day. Especially when I’m struggling to understand or remember some of the common web design terms.
Even now, though I’ve worked in the I.T industry for over 20 years, I still sometimes feel out of my depth when I’m communicating with a web designer. I have total admiration for programmers, network support engineers, developers and designers. Anyone who can build a fully-operational website in a few hours, when I’ve taken weeks to do mine in WordPress, earns my total respect. I’m still not happy with my site but now it’s out there I will keep researching, learning and updating it until I get it right. And as I’m learning I’m continually adding to my own personal Glossary of Web Design Terms..
I’m sharing some of the common web design terms and abbreviations that I’ve collated over the years. Hopefully they’ll improve your overall understanding of the WWW and conversations with your website designer. But remember, techies are human too, so if you don’t understand something, just ask.