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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If like me you spend a lot of time reading from a screen you will appreciate well written content. And I’m not talking about potential eye-strain. This is about your content being readable. Whether it’s email, website text or a blog, reading from a screen can be difficult.
Let’s talk about blogs first, because generally they will be the longest and most frequently written. As well as being relevant and interesting, your blog posts have to be readable. If they’re not, then your audience probably won’t even finish reading them.
Know your audience
First of all, make sure your text is at the right level for your target audience. For example, when I prepare instruction manuals for system users I keep it simple. I write them as if every reader is a new user, and that way everybody will understand it. User Guides are a good example because they’re not just for trainees. Experienced users will refer to them too, especially if there is an area they’re not familiar with.
Blogging is the same. It’s easy for me to be enthusiastic about website testing because it’s my job. But if I’m going to write an article about how to improve your website, it has to be interesting and readable for my target audience.
Plan your paragraphs
When you’re starting any blog make it clear from the beginning what the topic is, then go into more detail as you continue writing. This helps the reader understand the concept of your article from the outset. Try not to make your paragraphs too long, and keep your sentences short as well.
How many times have you started to read something and had to start again because the sentences drag on? Sentences containing more than 20 words are considered to be too long. Also, if they are shorter there is less chance of you making grammatical errors.
Check out the example below. This paragraph is an extract from a Yoast.com blog post. I have edited it to show you how not to write a paragraph.
If you really want original pictures that fit your post you should make your own photos. Taking your own photos ensures that you’ll show an original picture; one that can never be found on another blog and on top of that this allows you to shoot a photo that truly fits the content of your post so if you’re blogging about your day-to-day life taking your own pictures is definitely the way to go. That also goes for food blogs or for a company blog or a technical blog or anything else for that matter, it’s much harder to take pictures that actually fit the content of the posts you’re writing.
Even with a few commas in there to break up the sentences, it is still very difficult to follow. The sentences are far too long. Think about how you have a conversation. You don’t talk without taking a breath, so why would you expect someone to read without punctuation?
This is the original, unedited version of the same paragraph.
If you really want original pictures that fit your post, you should make your own photos. Taking your own photos ensures that you’ll show an original picture, one that can never be found on another blog. On top of that, this allows you to shoot a photo that truly fits the content of your post. If you’re blogging about your day-to-day life, taking your own pictures is definitely the way to go. That also goes for food blogs. For a company blog or a technical blog, or for Yoast.com for that matter, it’s much harder to take pictures that actually fit the content of the posts you’re writing.
The other thing to consider is vocabulary. Try to limit the use of long words because if they have four or more syllables they are considered difficult to read. I have read articles where the author appears to have deliberately thrown in long words. It puts me off a bit because then I start to wonder whether they are just trying to be clever, or if they are trying to confuse me?
Of course, depending on your blog topic you might need to use advanced vocabulary and terminology. But if your paragraphs and sentences aren’t too long, then it should still be readable.
My business website is on WordPress, and there is a really useful tool that you can use to help create readable content. Yoast SEO checks the sentence and paragraph lengths as you’re writing. It also checks whether you are using enough transition words and sub-headings. These are all elements which make your content more readable.
It annoyed the hell out of me to start with, because I just could not grasp ‘transition words‘. But I’m fairly happy with this article at the minute, because I can see I have got two green traffic lights for SEO and Readability.
You probably use transition words quite naturally when you are speaking. However, it can be difficult to use them in the right place when you are writing. And when you are trying to include enough transition words to improve the readability, it’s very tempting to use the same ones. This is another ‘No-No’. Try to avoid repetition and using the same words over and over and over again.
Because I draft my blogs in a word or Google document, if I’m struggling to come up with an alternative word I use the inbuilt grammar and spell-checking tools. So to find a similar word I ‘right-click’ in my document and check out the synonyms. This will give you other examples of words that have the same or nearly the same meaning as the word you have highlighted. It’s really useful, and is yet another way to keep your readers happy, joyful and elated.
If you want your readers to get to the end of your blog post, make sure that your text is easy to read. Don’t make your text more difficult than you have to. Avoid long sentences and write clear paragraphs.
My top tip though is read whatever you have written out loud before you publish it. Reading on screen is difficult and it’s easy to miss spelling and grammatical errors. If you read it out loud it will also help you find sentences that are too long.
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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.
It’s not all doom and gloom for businesses that appear to be running ‘business-as-usual’, because they will be the first to receive a positive response from global customers once this crisis is over. The following article landed in my mailbox earlier this week, and it’s based on facts and figures, and includes good, positive advice.
“Our 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”.
SAA IT Testing – Committed to you and your business
As we move into another week of confinement, I want to reassure all my existing and potential clients that I remain committed to you and your business.
As a responsible business owner, I will be following the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO), and all relevant authorities, for country-specific requirements.
I am fortunate that my line of business does not involve face to face contact with my clients and I can work from home. But the same as everyone else, we are being impacted by a downturn in trade as small and medium-sized businesses cancel or reduce their orders.
If there is anything I can do to help you through these difficult times please get in touch. I have extended the FREE business website review indefinitely, and can also offer assistance writing blogs or content to help your business look it’s best.
If you prefer, we can just talk. Sometimes it is just good to have someone to talk to who is in the same situation.
Thank you for your continued loyalty and trust in SAA IT Testing Services
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.