Websites have progressed to become the most important marketing tool for any retailer, small or large.
Like a lot of things in business, your site and things like store design, products and marketing campaigns age quickly.
Originally, many small business owners took an existing brochure and had someone make a webpage or two based on that text. The bold ones may have added an image.
Nowadays the web has gone from mostly text to mostly images and icons.
Knowing that, I recently contracted to have my RetailDoc.com entirely redesigned.
Like a retailer trying to get the most out of an aging store by adding a coat of paint to the walls, I had tinkered with the design a couple years ago.
The homepage looked like this:
But last fall I realized that if I wanted to gain more eyeballs, I had to take the plunge and rebuild my site from scratch.
Now like many business owners, there was a time I would have tried to do it myself.
Back when I had a fax machine.
Back when I had an answering machine.
Back when I must’ve had more patience and time for such things.
I purchased Dreamweaver and while I could sort of make my way around it, a web designer I was not.
Now check the main page of the site by clicking the logo up above left or here. HUGE improvement, wouldn't you agree? (Feel free to check out all the pages to see how panoramic design grabs viewers.)
That’s why I thought I’d write this post…
11 things you should know about creating a new website:
1) Don’t do it yourself, hire a professional. And I’m not talking about your daughter’s boyfriend’s friend. I’m talking about a professional who will charge you more than you think to create a website with at least 10 pages. Those pages should include a Home page, a Product or Services page, an About page, Directions, and a Contact Us page. You start with those pages to form what’s called the sitemap.
The more pages you have with relevant, original content, the better your chances to have high rankings on the search engines. But I should warn you, ten pages probably will not be enough to show high quality content and relevance to your customers.
2) Do the hard work and know your target customer. If you’ve never done work on branding, now is the time. I can’t tell you how many retailers who when I ask, “Who is your ideal customer?” reply, “Everyone.” Well of course we’d like that, but a site should be created to speak to your ideal customer. Who is she? What does she look for? Then think about what helpful articles you can provide that will answer her questions and be relevant to her.
3) Do the hard work and know what you want your site to look like. While the designer can put it together, you should think how to tell your story in images. And we’re not talking about a bunch of small iPhone photos, we’re talking about professional shots taken to do the heavy lifting of engaging your website visitors.
Modern websites, like my redesigned one, are built on panoramic images that stretch side to side. Checkout these four examples:
4) Make sure your design is responsive. Have you tried to open a weblink on your smartphone but you could only see a couple of words? You have to try to shrink the page to read it, or worse, the whole page is so small, you’d have to be Superman to read it. Your new site needs to be able to change proportion on various devices - that’s what responsive design is.
5) Don’t use a generic template. I’ve seen a bunch of stores who opt for a cookie-cutter web page design. They’re usually cluttered, confusing and boring. Especially if you sell items online from your store, you have to look unique - just like your brick and mortar store.
6) Remove the clutter. You know you hate pages littered with ads and irrelevant content. I used to try to put everything I offered on each and every page. At the side of every page were the options of hiring me to speak, hiring me to train, join me on Facebook, read my blog, etc. It distracted the reader. You must focus their attention.
Check out what my blog page used to look like compared to the blog page you're reading now:
7) Make it less about you and more about how to access you. No one cares you’ve been a family business for fifty years, you like your employees, you give the best customer service. What they care about most is when are you open, can you answer a question via email or phone or even chat, and can they easily find directions to your business.
8) Remove friction. If you are selling items, work to remove anything that stops a customer from saying, "I'll take it." You’ll need to examine how many steps a visitor has to complete to make a transaction. You need to make sure the navigation buttons to go return to the previous page are easily understandable. You need to especially edit how much information you require on any form.
On SalesRX.com you used to have to register and wait for an emailed password to take a sample lesson. Now you can register in seconds and access a sample lesson immediately. I can tell you, the difference in conversions has been huge.
9) Make each page drive to one action you want the viewer to do. Just like a display wall, don’t give them a laundry list of options or they’ll click away quickly. No matter what the content of the page is, there should always be a button at the bottom that requires an action specific to that page.
If you are a pool contractor, on the page that highlights how to get the pool of your dreams, provide all the steps needed to get that pool, and toward the bottom of page include testimonials from several of your happiest customers. At the very bottom, include a button with wording such as “Let’s chat about your pool” or “Start the process.” Be very clear about what your customer should do on each page.
10) Add some kind of downloadable content. It could be an eBook, a checklist, or a guide to purchase, but it is a freebie to get your potential customer to give up their contact information to you. So many small businesses miss this!
For a single store, these contacts can be great ways to attract customers to your business. For a high-profit business or service, these contacts are hot leads to follow-up.
11) Use hyperlinks throughout your text to keep visitors on your site longer. Define words, highlight links to other articles on your site, and make sure to provide a link to your contact page. The longer the visitors stick around, the more likely they are to purchase your products or services.
12) When you’re all done, redirect the URLs on your old site to the new site.A professional will know how to redirect any content that might have been on your Wordpress or other platform.
An amateur designer will probably forget to do this and search engines will have a tough time finding you.
There’s no doubt a compelling site is going to cost you.
But like a bad location that leaves you 100 feet from success, you’ll pay for it one way or the other. You’ll either pay the money now to get all the information correct and cross-related, or you’ll find yourself struggling to attract customers.
If you still aren’t sold on why you need to upgrade your webpage, just look at your own behavior as you search who you’ll do business with – and who you quickly click away from.