Thursday, 28 May 2015

Why Does My Company Website Suck?

Why Does My Company Website Suck?
Websites can be a real head scratcher!

Written by Robyn T. Braley

Does your company website effectively tell your story? Can you answer the question, 
“What makes an effective website?”

Regardless of how new, powerful, dynamic or successful your website is, you will soon be contacted by an “expert” who will tell you, “It sucks!”

Webschpeak

The challenge is to sort out what is fact and what is fiction.  A few weeks ago a client told me how frustrated he was with the number of email and telephone contacts he receives from people who speak an unfamiliar language.
What did he say?

I call it webschpeak. He had no idea what they were saying. Mind you, he has a distinct Newfoundland twist to his words. I suspect they didn’t understand him either. 

In this post I provide an overview of website basics that will help you evaluate your business site. At a minimum, after reading this you will be able to nod in the right places the next time a web designer uses webschpeak terminology.
The bottom line is that an effective online presence is imperative for businesses today. It becomes the hub of all marketing activity. 

Google Search

People search for products, services, locations and other relevant information online. They buy cars, make hotel registrations, seek manufacturing services, source drillbits or look for jobs. If your company can’t be easily found, you are not in the game. 

However, if potential customers eventually find you only to be confronted by a website that was constructed using dated technology, is poorly designed, features "inhouse" photos, a news section that has not been updated in five years, employees who are long gone and has little relevant information, your site will make a negative brand impression. 

Dynamic and Responsive

First impressions are where you start building relationships with your customers. Engaging colors, meaningful text and professional photos that help tell your story are key.

If your website is dynamic, engaging, loads quickly, is easy to navigate and clearly demonstrates your products or services, chances are they will want to engage further with your brand.   

And one more thing! Today's websites must be mobile responsive. In other words, they must automatically adjust to our phone, iPad, tablet or your smart watch.
Google ranks responsive sites higher than non-responsive sites. It’s just the way things are!

For more detail about responsive websites, read a recent post by our Unimark Creative web designer, Meg Braley. Why Do I Need a Responsive Website

Websites Recently Launched by Unimark



Content Management Systems (CMS)

Remember website development in the 1990's? The early 2,000's? Many web designers produced high cost websites then promptly disappeared. Making changes was next to impossible. 

Content management sections only make sense. However, I recommend that they be restricted to certain pages like jobs, upcoming events, news, equipment sales or similar topics that require regular changes.  
If you open your entire site to inhouse management you can put the overall integrity of the site at risk. Unless you or an employee have a deep understanding of website design, it is really easy to screw up an entire site by inadvertently deleting a single code.

Call-to-Action (CTA)

How many times have you been frustrated searching for basic information like a phone number or email? Banks, government and utility companies are often the greatest offenders. 
It seems to me that incorporating call-to-action should be pretty basic! The idea is, shall we say, low tech, old school, low-brow, advertising 101 - pick your descriptive. Unfortunately, this basic element is often forgotten. 

Our firm learned to make basic contact info easy to find from a client while doing his company's website in the late 1990's. In those days, web people sold the idea that visitors would spend hours exploring your site. Remember this?

"Welcome to our virtual home! Enjoy your visit as you explore our online rooms."


Somehow, just like Blind Sport, visitors were expected to eventually "discover" a phone number or email. Old news!. 

Today, visitors want key information, and they want it now! A commercial fabrication client expressed his frustration at visiting websites, taking forever to find required information, and then spending another 15 minutes trying to find a phone number in order to place an order.

We got the message! His company contact information was easy-to-find on every page of his and every other website we developed from that point on.  

Nuts and Bolts CTA's

The science of website calls-to-action can be subtle, obvious or a combination of the two. Our friends at HubSpot offer 101 Examples of Effective Calls-To-Action.

The ebook is free as long as you sign up for their newsletter - which is a great - wait for it - call-to-action. Many of the tips are for web designers and creative types but a quick scan will provide laypersons with an overview of the possibilities of online marketing psychology.    

How does your company website measure up? Does it include the liberal use of Simple Simon tips like:
  • Phone number and emails on every page 
  • Engaging photo of a benefit to taking action
  • Text that is clear, specific, and action-oriented
  • Prominent buttons with messages like:
  • Call now
  • Sign up here
  • Free
  • Get your's now
  • Learn more
  • Increase my business

What's My Brand

If you have attended one of my marketing seminars you have heard my explanation of branding. 

"Branding is a process of thematic thinking in which all parts make a significant contribution to the whole. There are no small parts. Everything counts." RTBraley

It all comes down to this question. Does your website reflect the value , relevance, authenticity and brand experience your company offers? Does it effectively tell your story? If not, it may be time for an upgrade.

Online Brand Basics

Building your brand should drive everything you do, especially online marketing. There are four basic elements to online marketing.      
  • Know
  • Like
  • Trust
  • Engage
Your website should be easily found through search engine ranking or linking. Once visitors are aware of your site, is there enough content to encourage them to engage and spend time getting to know you? Will they feel positive – or like - your company? 

After the initial brand experience is there enough to suggest they can trust you? Is there relevant information that will lead them to believe your company will do what your website says it will do? 

Finally, are there enough relevant prompts to motivate them to interact with your brand? Will they contact you allowing further engagement and relationship building?

Four Basic Elements

There are four elements that combine to create a strong online presence; a dynamic responsive website, search engine optimization, online marketing, and social media. “Experts” will mislead you by promising great riches due to their abilities in one area.

They are only telling part of the story. One discipline should not be separated from the others. Each supports the other. When all three processes are part of an integrated plan, good things happen. 
  • Dynamic Website
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Social Media
  • Online Marketing

Dramatic Changes

The entire online universe has changed so dramatically that a website built even five years ago may not respond effectively to search engines today. To put it simply, today’s websites are created using new practices, protocols and technologies.

For example, remember when great emphasis was placed on key word phrases? Old news.
It is still a good idea to use key word phrases because other search engines rely on them. That may also change as search engines continue to evolve. Google now places greater weight on relevant content. Content basically means everything you see, hear and read.
  • Meaningful text
  • Professional photos
  • Quality design
  • Videos
  • Podcasts
  • Navigation systems
  • Indexing
  • Regular updates
  • More  

What Program Should My Designer Use?

I recently had a meeting with a client who was in the market for a website. He was adamant that a particular system would have to be used. As it turned out, a competing web designer had told him that his site should be developed using a particular approach. 

I soon discovered the client new little about websites. After more questions, I uncovered his real concern - the ability to have content management. Our competitor had implied there was only one way to deliver a solution. 

There are many excellent approaches to web design. Beware of designers who advocate a particular system as the only approach. Some will tell you HTML, WordPress, Drupal, Joomla or other systems are the only way to go simply because that is what they know.

Some systems require monthly maintenance fees because they are constantly being updated. Think windows. The designer has to incorporate the new features. 
Before contracting a designer, look carefully at their body of work.  Are their sites responsive? Are you drawn to their design? Are they well organized? 
Ask for references. Do they promptly return phone calls or emails? 

If there are red flags, move on to the next designer. Find a supplier that you feel is competent and that you can work with.  Will the process be FUN or will it be ... well, you know!

 

Your Opinion Matters

Please share your comments below. What have I missed in explaining websites? What caused you to think differently?  

Robyn T. Braley is a writer, speaker and occasional media guest. He is the President of UniMark Creative which does website design, video production, media services (editorial and advertising), and graphic design. He speaks at business conferences and also blogs about branding. 

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