Years ago, as Wachovia was building themselves into the colossus they are today, I remember walking into the First Atlanta (In the process of being bought out, at the time, by Wachovia) building in downtown Atlanta and meeting their “Director of First Impressions”. Simply put, this was a gracious older woman with a desk in the lobby who greeted every visitor to their corporate building. Not a guard, not a doorman. A Director of First Impressions.
I thought it was great.
Your website is now your Director of First Impressions.
How is it doing? Ask yourself:
- Does the design look like it was created by a design professional, or an enthusiastic (but maybe not too talented) amateur?
- Is it instantly apparent where the reader’s eye should go first?
- Is the text easy to read, or does the reader need to squint?
- Does the site give the confidence that you can solve your customer’s problems?
- If you were a stranger here, would you trust this business to be competent, capable, and trustworthy?
The hard part of looking with a critical eye at your website it is, after all, your website. You can’t look at your child at think they are ugly. You can’t look at your website and see that it’s ugly.
Remember – your website’s design says a lot. A professional design immediately gives the reader confidence that just as much care has been put into the content. An ugly or amateurish design, on the other hand, triggers the reader to look for flaws and sloppiness in the business as well.
It’s not fair, but it’s how it works. Your site is judged instantly based on how it looks, and this judgement usually takes less than 5 seconds.
Fortunately, an extreme makeover for your website is a lot easier than it is for a person. Let’s look at some common business-damaging design mistakes and how you can quickly make them better.
Is your text readable?
Text that’s hard to read will suppress your conversions, social shares, traffic, and success. Here are some important improvements you can make to your site’s readability:
- If you’re using white text on a dark background, don’t do anything else with your site before fixing that. It makes for a miserable reading experience, and it will cut down dramatically on the links and shares you receive.
- Your text should feel like black text on a white background, even if the colors are actually very dark gray with very light gray.
- If you’re using one of those fancy textured backgrounds that’s taking forever to load — replace it. Now.
- Your font needs to be at least 14pt. Not itty-bitty. It will never scale on a small screen – and people are looking at it on a small screen these days. For the same reason, lose the fancy script font and get a typeface that is readable.
- Along those same lines – Don’t use 20 different typefaces all over your site. Choose one for your headers and one for your body text.
- Links should be underlined. Designers love to play with more attractive ways of indicating links — sadly, none of them is as clear to the reader as underlined text is.
- When you’re writing content, break it up into fairly short paragraphs.
- Avoid very wide or very narrow columns for your text: both are hard to read. Columns that are 450-550 pixels wide tend to work well
Content that’s formatted to be reader-friendly is content that will get shared more freely! Those shares mean more exposure, and that exposure drives you new clients.
Does your reader know where to look? Do they know what they are looking for?
For most content-supported businesses, building an email list is the most important objective of most public-facing content. That means there must be a highly visible, clear call-to-action to join your email list on most if not all pages on your site.
You may decide that different pages have different goals. For example, some will function as a landing page that sell a product or motivate some action.
But the principle is the same. Every individual page on the site must communicate precisely what the reader should do next.
Incidentally, this means you need to clean the clutter off of your site. Have you implemented irrelevant affiliate links that bring in only a few dollars a month? Get rid of them. They’re distracting your readers about what they should do next, instead of focusing them on your business goals.
If you don’t have a product yet and you’re still in “trying to pay your hosting bill” mode, write an ebook and sell it via your email list. You’ll make more money selling something of your own than you ever will with advertising.
Is your design professional?
This is the one that gets very hard to be objective about.
If you designed your site yourself and you aren’t a design professional — it probably looks bad. None of us ever had an ugly baby, remember?
I know that’s hard to hear! But someone’s got to be straight with you. If it makes you feel better, my own first sites looked juvenile too — though I didn’t see it at the time.
Yes, there are some designer “tricks” you can learn to make things better. But the plain fact is, design professionals spend years developing their ability to create polished, professional-looking design that serves a business purpose.
Instead of trying to reproduce those skills in an afternoon, start with something created by a solid design pro. Then, if you really want to, tweak that, either yourself or by contracting with a design professional of your own.
That’s why we use WordPress… it is easy to learn and easy to teach. I don’t have to hold my clients hostage for a simple change on their site. You’ll save money, time, frustration, and your site will always reflect well on your business.
The look and feel of your site will communicate your professionalism and expertise. And that’s a priceless improvement to your content’s effectiveness. As always, feel free to schedule some time with me to see how you can tweak your site. Click here and see how MiSyte can improve your online strategy.