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Do you encourage people to go to your website? Perhaps you find yourself making excuses for it as you give the url? Is it a good representation of your business?
I recently received an email from a business acquaintance, proudly announcing that after ‘months of work’, she was delighted to invite us to go to her brand new website. So I did. It was truly awful, by any standards. Ugly, cumbersome, old fashioned. Fortunately, I hardly know the lady in question so I did not feel the need to respond personally to the email, although I was tempted to reply saying “but really, it’s rubbish, what were you thinking?”
There is no better way to shortcut the introduction stages in a business relationship, than by inviting potential customers, partners or advisers, to have a look at your website. The flip side is, you can just as easily cut short that relationship, if they form a negative opinion based on your online presence.
Do you have a sneaking suspicion that your website is not what it should be? Face up to the facts and fix it. Equally, if you are confident that your site is fantastic, make sure that you are getting good rankings, and maximising opportunities with the visitors you get.
Practical steps to get it right
- Make time to sit down and focus on checking your site carefully, each page. List and change if possible all errors, dead links, out of date information, dodgy images, empty pages etc
- Enlist a group of mystery shoppers to test your website. Go for the toughest crowd you can and make it clear you want their completely honest opinions. Steel yourself for criticism, it will be absolutely invaluable. Include a couple of youngsters if you can, teenagers are particularly good at pointing out painfully obvious holes in a website.
- Do not ‘over brief’ them. The less they know about your business the better. You want them to go the website, and form an opinion about what it is you are offering, and how they can access your product or service. Make it clear you want to improve your website and ask for suggestions.
- After the testers have been to the website – ask for first impressions, and then more questions to ascertain the user experience. Do not, under any circumstances take the comments personally, your panel might hold back on stuff which could make a big difference.
You may decide on reflection, that some of the user comments are not completely relevant or constructive – but consider the whole picture before you start to disregard any information. Remember that they are the visitors, and in some respects all of the observations are valid.
What you need to know (frank and honest answers)
- First impressions?
- Can you tell immediately what this business is?
- If you were a prospective customer, would you contact me?
- How would you get in touch?
- Is there any information you would expect to see that is not on the website?
- Did you feel confident that this is a professional business?
- Did you find spelling mistakes, grammatical errors?
- Was there anything out of date?
- How would you make the website better?
- Review the information you have from your panel.
- Grade and group the comments in order of priority.
- For example, if 4 out of 6 of your reviewees, could not find the contact details easily – this would qualify as a high priority action point.
- If 2 out of 6 were not keen on your font, this may not require urgent attention.
- If only 5 out of 6 could tell immediately what your business is – this would still be high priority, you should aim for 100% understanding of this critical factor.
- Draw up an action list depending on the findings of your testing panel. Deal with those actions you can, immediately, and then decide on a strategy to complete the list.
- You may not need a redesign, investigate options to spruce up your site without going down the sometimes tortuous redesign path.
- If you do decide that a complete redesign is necessary – make sure you are completely clear about the brief you need to achieve – and ask around for personal recommendations for the right web design agency for you.
- Check that the web design team has business and technical expertise – this is absolutely key. Technical expertise without business experience results in websites that consistently fail to engage visitors, or sell business concepts.
- Look for strong testimonials, and a focus on the importance of sticking to budget and deadlines.
- Ask around for personal recommendations, based on direct experience as a client (beware of the potentially catastrophic “my nephew is at University, he can build you a website – no problem” conversation.)
Diana Horner runs Serious Web Support – a professional website management, maintenance and problem-solving company with 7 years experience, who guarantees fantastic customer service. Outsource your web problems to the experienced Serious Web Support team and chose between our cost-effective monthly contracts or Pay As You Go services. Our emergency service ensures fast and effective solutions for your more urgent requirements, leaving you free to deal with your core services. http://www.seriouswebsupport.com
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