If you think any old website will do for your business, think again.
First impressions matter. Experts say we size up new people in somewhere between 30 seconds and two minutes, yet online you have far less time to make a good impression. The average visitor takes 15 seconds to judge your web page and decide whether to stay and explore or to click off to visit one of your competitors.
Online, sadly, the maxim “never judge a book by its cover” simply doesn’t hold up. Your website is your company’s book cover and its storefront and so it is vital that it creates a great first impression.
The fact that visitors make a judgement on your website within 15 seconds of arriving indicates how impatient people are online. It is vital therefore, that they can find what they are looking for quickly and easily no matter on which page they first enter the site. Your main navigation bar should be in an obvious position and easy to use.
It’s true that big brands like Amazon have cluttered home pages which advertise a huge variety of different products and offer links to a wide variety of categories. They can get away with this because everyone knows what Amazon offers, their brand is already established and many visitors make straight for the Amazon website and use it almost like a search engine to find the product they want.
A small business has to build its brand and it is most likely to be served up in a search engine result. This means the visitor probably has no prior knowledge of your company, doesn’t know whether you can supply what they are looking for or whether they can trust you.
The home page should immediately show your most important product or service and since you have 15 seconds to get across your first message, large, professional graphics are a great idea. Decide which areas of your website you most want potential customers to visit and use no more than 3 or 4 clear graphical links to those sections on the home page. Don’t confuse visitors with multiple calls to action or flashing imagery.
If you have a logo which appears on printed materials it’s important you use the same logo on your website so that your company is easily recognisable. Likewise, any graphics you use regularly in social media, in print adverts or in your physical shop, should be utilised in your web presence.
Web visitors do not read material online in the same way as they do printed material; they rarely read whole pages and rather tend to skim-read to search for information that’s of interest. This means it is important to keep the products you most want to publise higher up the page – ideally so they will not vanish below the bottom of the screen when viewed on a desktop PC. If you fail to do this, many visitors will never spot them.
Nothing puts off new visitors than out-of-date information on a web page. If you own a shop on the high street, you would, quite rightly, not dream of leaving the shop window display unchanged throughout the year – so why do that with your website?
Likewise, if you are going to keep a blog or news section and your most recent post was 6 months ago, this sends a clear message that you don’t value your website or even that you are no longer in business.
This is a must since very large numbers of people now browse the web using a hand-held device. It is vital that your site is easy to browse on mobiles and tablets of all sizes. That means a simple layout, well optimised images and navigation that’s usable with a one-finger tap.