Here are some simple tips and tools you can use to evaluate your website design and determine if you're putting the best foot forward for your business.
Your website design is like a storefront for your business. It's often one of the first things a prospective customer sees, so it's a powerful tool to make a good early impression.
It only takes 50 milliseconds (0.05 seconds) for visitors to form a first impression of your website. Before they read a single word on a page, they're judging your site based on look and feel.
In that lightning-fast moment, the simpler the better. Visitors need to know instantaneously where they should look, but if a page is too complex, their eyes don't know where to go. Things like structure, color, spacing, and font help identify what's important.
In the age of 12-megapixel smartphone cameras, it's easy to take high-quality, high-resolution photos. If you're not a photographer, stock photo websites offer a multitude of options. There are even many quality free stock photo sites if you're budget-crunched.
Check your website design for low quality, fuzzy, or stretched images. They are a dead giveaway that your site is outdated.
Before you go crazy with stock photography, remember that even the best stock photos have their limits. And the worst ones... well, we've all seen these cheesy photos of the overly-happy call center workers. A small business web design full of smiling models and perfectly choreographed office environments lacks authenticity, and it distances visitors from your real people, your real products, and your real vision.
Invest in your own photography, because there's no substitute for your genuine imagery.
You know that news page where you uploaded three articles in 2011, and you haven't touched it since? The information may still be correct, but pages collecting digital cobwebs are an obvious sign that your website needs some attention.
Unused pages can also hinder user navigation, making it harder for visitors to quickly find current information. Simplicity is key to effective navigation, and outdated pages only divert traffic away from more important areas of your website.
Your website design should always represent the best and most current expression of your company's brand. If you updated your logo, changed your colors, or altered the styling of any of your materials, your website should look the same. Your brand helps create personality and differentiation for your business, but inconsistency between your website and other materials can hurt your credibility.
Imagine a prospective customer learning about your business on your website, but when you send them an email or mail them a brochure, it looks completely different. Suddenly, they're not sure if you're even the same company, and they don't trust you. Make sure your website's branding is current and consistent.
There's nothing wrong with 2005, but the Internet has changed a lot since then. Early website designs served as simple informational resources and lacked the tools we have today in terms of design options.
Website designs have evolved into a highly sophisticated communication tools, and users expect an attractive web design that delivers a much more robust experience.
Although there is no definite rule for how long a website design can last, three years is essentially forever in Internet terms. If you've barely touched your website in multiple years, it's likely reaching the end of its lifespan.
86% of visitors to your websites look for information on your products or services and 65% of visitors want to see your contact information. That's a lot of potential customers you're misinforming if your website content isn't up to date.
Your contact information is especially critical, not only because your customers are looking for it, but because search engines are too.
Mobile devices account for 51% of organic search traffic in the U.S., and that number is growing. With over half of search traffic coming from mobile devices, a mobile-friendly website design is no longer an option; it's a requirement.
Not only do users expect an optimized mobile experience, Google now indexes mobile sites first and penalizes websites that are not mobile-friendly. While companies sometimes build separate mobile sites, most use responsive web design, where content adapts to the size of the screen being used.
Is your website design mobile-friendly? If you're not sure, check with Google's handy free tool
"404 Error: Page Not Found." You've seen this type of page when you're browsing a website and you click on a page or a link that doesn't work. Broken links are typically caused by moving or renaming a page on your site, or linking to other pages, images, or videos that have moved (or no longer even exist).
In addition to frustrating users, broken links stop search engines from crawling and indexing your site, which can hurt your rankings. So it's important to constantly police your site for broken links.
Try a tool like dead link checker.
Don't make them search for it.
Navigation with vague labels or too many choices complicates the user experience. For example, a navigation link called "Discover," could mean a lot of things: it could be information about the company, new product offerings or an inspirational blog. Meanwhile, e-commerce website designs are especially are prone to listing tons of sub-categories for products, giving users so many choices it's confusing.
Lastly, don't leave out pages visitors expect to see, like About, Products/Services, and a Contact page. It may seem dull, but when it comes to navigation, stick to standards and best practices; navigation isn't the place to be clever.
You may have heard that the average human has a shorter attention span than a goldfish (around 8 seconds). While that may be an over-generalization, research has still shown that you have a very short time to engage your web visitors.
Your content needs to give visitors a reason to stay on your website. The first step is to make sure your homepage, which is the primary landing page for your website, is drawing in your visitors. Your homepage should immediately answer a few basic questions for your visitors:
What do you do?
Where are you located?
How can I reach you?
Your website design should engage followers, leads, and sales, but it isn't going to drive anything if your visitors don't know what to do next. A clear call to action (CTA) tells visitors the next step to take in your sales process, which might be signing up for a newsletter, downloading a report, attending an event, or requesting a consultation.
Seconds count. We've all been frustrated by slow web pages, and many users won't wait longer than a few seconds for a web page to load. How fast should your pages load? Simple answer: as fast as possible. According to Kissmetrics, even a one second delay can mean a 7% reduction in conversions. Take a look at their infographic below, and you'll see that up to 25% of users were abandoning a page with only a four second load time, and it gets worse from there.
Test your page speed here.
In today's highly social media-driven world, social links offer another way for your customers to easily interact with you and share your content. If you have active social media profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc., then you should consider including social follow buttons on your homepage and social sharing buttons on your blog posts. Typically, you should put them at the top of the page, the bottom of a post or along the left-hand side for best effect.