Top 10 Criteria for a Killer Website
Your website is the start of your relationship with a customer. Whether they found you via a Google search ad, search engine optimisation (SEO), a Facebook ad or a friendly blogger, most people will first search for your company website and check it out in order to form an opinion of your business, before deciding to do business with you.
Your website is your digital calling card. It’s your brochure, your sales rep, your product catalogue and shop all in one.
You also have competitors, which means your website needs to stand out and differentiate your service offering immediately and succinctly.
When customers struggle on your site, they simply return to Google and type in another search term. This means you’ve lost a customer and their potential lifetime revenue.
So, it’s imperative that your website not only looks great, but is easy to navigate, answer all questions and close that sale… which makes your website one of the most important touchpoints in your sales channel.
If your website is not doing its job, it needs to be fired or performance managed, just as you would a staff member.
Let’s look at the top 10 criteria you should measure your website home page against:
Everybody’s Different: Create Personas
Remember that every user is different, some are visual and some prefer to read, some are hunters (and know exactly what they want), and some are browsers (and want to explore all options), some are returning users and some are first time visitors; you have to cater to every type of user to your site. You also, most critically, have to cater to your top three types of visitors. This means you have to workshop these ‘personas’ and decide what they look like, what their needs are and why they’re visiting the site, and then create a website journey based around them, their needs, and not around you and how your company is structured, or your business silos.
First Five Seconds
Within the first few seconds of landing on your site, your visitor has rated your website and decided whether there’s anything in it for them. This is why up to 96% of your first-time visitors ‘bounce’ or leave without clicking to another page.
They are looking for the following answers:
What are you selling – amazingly so many websites are unclear on this point, you know what you’re about, but you confuse the visitor with company jargon and by being vague
Do I belong here – using pictures of people who look like your customers is a first, critical starter. If you only have pictures of technical folks on your site, you will alienate all non-technical customers
What’s in it for me – what’s the hook for each customer, what’s the benefit of being here?
What do you want me to do – where do you want me to click? Craft a journey for your customers, starting with ‘find out more’ and leading them to ‘add to cart’, a slow, committed relationship instead of a hard, fast one-night-stand!
Summary of the Site
Your home page should be a summary of the entire website, this means that any important graphs, customer logos, testimonials, white papers, infographics that are buried a few clicks deep should also be displayed for all to see on the home page.
Don’t force your visitor to dig around your website to unlock this great content, like a treasure hunt, because they won’t. The home page can be very long, think of infinite scroll…which leads me to the next point, don’t make me click.
Don’t Make Me Click
Your average user fears clicking. Why? Because clicking takes me to some unknown, disconnected internet island that I can never return from. Users love to scroll. They love mega-flyout menus instead of dry waterfall menus. Forcing customers to click is a way of losing them, consider that you lose up to 20 per cent of visitors with every click. Remember that a brilliantly designed website removes all the effort from the customer by not making them search for what they need.
eCommerce Stores: Shop Front
Continuing from the point above, some eCommerce stores are still stuck on a short home page, one where you can’t scroll, relying heavily on visitors navigating via the menu dropdown.
Remember your home page is effectively the shop front of your retail business; if you were on a retail high street your shop would display wares in the window to lure buyers in. Your home page needs to display as many items as you can on the home page, especially for your browsing customers who don’t know what they want to buy, they just want to spend money with you.
eCommerce Stores: Search All Products
Also remember to create an ‘All Products’ menu dropdown, so that customers can browse everything in your store and not be forced to go back to the menu when they reach the bottom of each category.
Once you’ve designed the website, whether in wireframe, pdf, jpeg or draft web layout, make sure you get at least five surrogate or real customers to test the website. Without this critical step, you won’t know whether you’ve created infinite loops or dead ends, or whether your wording is ambiguous. Don’t take your site live without first testing it. Especially if it’s a custom-built site. Also, remember that it’s cheaper to change a site while it’s still in design phase, than once it’s in dev phase. So many sites go live and then the rebuild starts immediately.
Don’t Break the Rules
Users have learned how to navigate websites by browsing millions of sites. If you come along and change the rules, they will have to spend critical emotional energy just figuring out how to navigate your website! Rather have them browsing your products and services during this time than trying to find the menu or work out where to go.
Your website has to be mobile-friendly, especially if the bulk of your traffic is coming from mobile. Many South Africans first research on their phones, but make the purchase on their laptops. Your Google analytics will tell you the importance of mobile vs desktops, down to which browsers people are using. Designing a mobile-first site means that your graphic design is mocked up for mobile, before it’s mocked up for desktop.
Search Engine Optimisation or turning up on page one of Google, for free. Your website has to rank in Google, it’s also not negotiable! It’s easier than you think, but it takes time and a lot of work. You need to do your homework and identify the keywords you want to rank for. You need to plan your content clusters and which pages form part of each cluster. Then you need to take the time to write authority pages for each key term. And that’s not even talking about back links!
SEO is an investment in your website. This means that, once you stop working on your SEO, your site should continue to reap rewards up to a few years later, or until an algorithm change by Google. What happens when you switch off your Google ads? They stop. Stop paying Google for ads and you have no more ads. But SEO carries on reaping rewards for you many years after the fact. Do it.
Take a bit longer to plan your website scientifically, you won’t regret it.
Arcticle by Dylan Kohlstädt