Why do most realtors have nice cars? No, it’s not because they make tons of money. It’s because no one wants to buy a million dollar house from someone in a 1989 Buick Century.
As a business owner today, your website is your first impression to the world. It’s the car that you’re rolling up in front of every prospective buyer with. And it shouldn’t be a 20 year old station wagon. Here’s how to tell if it’s time for you time make some improvements.
Your website is awful if…
It’s all prose, and no pictures.
People like pictures! Check out Apple’s website. Front and center is always their newest toy, offer or advertisement. The pictures are BIG. They’re eye-catching. They are seamlessly integrated with the branding and color scheme of the website. And they’re relevant. They communicate the product or the message in a non-verbal way that is easy to immediately understand. Oh, and clip art does not count. Subtract points for clip art. Subtract double points for animated clip art.
There are tables or frames.
Websites are not excel spreadsheets. A frame is a way of showing multiple webpages within one webpage, and was used for things like navigation menus 10-15 years ago (click here for sample). Please, no excuses. Tables, which are normally hidden, are a way of uniformly spacing out your design. But over time, tinkering with your website might throw off the spacing, and things will start looking messy. If you’ve reached the point of no return with your tables, scrap them and start over.
You have old or outdated content.
If you have a “recent news” or “upcoming events” page that was last updated in 2003, just delete the page entirely. Old content like that makes your business look like it doesn’t exist anymore! At the minimum, you should maintain a blog or twitter feed that constantly adds fresh content to your website. If you can’t commit to frequent updates, then make sure the content on your website it timeless.
I used to be a fan of flash websites, and I had one until 2006. But, like my post about graphics in video, flash designs get outdated quickly. Flash is a pain to navigate too. Mistakenly hit the “back” button on your browser, and the page that you were looking at disappears for 45 seconds until you watch a logo bounce around the screen 15 times before you can click anything. So, ditch the flash.
It doesn’t work on my phone.
This is a big one. I’d say I do 30-40% of my web browsing from an iPhone, and if your website doesn’t work, you’ve lost me. At minimum, your website should be simple and organized enough that I can zoom in on articles or pictures. But I’d recommend that you go a step further and invest in a mobile optimized website. With a little bit of code, you can maintain a hidden version of your website that a mobile device will recognize and display by default. Click here to check out EVC’s website on your phone as a sample.
It’s more than 3 years old.
Unless you spent millions developing eBay or Amazon.com, chances are your website could use a refresh. Every few years, you should take a hard look at your website to make sure it’s still consistent with your brand, still current, and still attractive to your customers. If you’re not sure, ask me! I’ll give you the honest feedback you’re looking for, and give you a few options on how to move forward.
Is your website awful? How to fix it:
Hire a designer.
Not everyone has a big budget for their website, and that’s fine. But you should have a budget. Professional design firms will charge between $10-30k for a custom website. Freelancers will cost $5-10k. Friends, family, and high-school prodigies might charge $500-3k. So know your budget, and hire someone to do it right (I can help you find them, just use my contact page).
Hire a photographer.
If you have products to sell, a store-front, a vendor table, a warehouse, or anything else that’s worth showing off, do it. People like to see what you’re all about. If you aren’t a trained photographer, your pictures will work against you rather than for you. Proper lighting, focus, and shot composition will make all the difference.
There are so many free tools out there… why not take advantage of them? You should have a Facebook page, Twitter account, company LinkedIn page, Google Places account with a Google map if you have a physical location, Flickr account for sharing photos… The list goes on.
So, take a hard look at your website (or ask me to). You won’t know how many customers you’re losing out on until you do.