A strong online presence is more important than ever for businesses. It is the cornerstone of marketing communications and your virtual shop front (whether you’re a shop or not!).
For new businesses there are a plethora of cheap ways to set up their own website across platforms such as WordPress, Squarespace or even the dreaded Wix. Simply pick a template, slap your logo on it and away you go!
So easy! However, does this approach provide the best possible experience for potential customers? Or even just a good experience?
The thing is, how people feel when they interact with your website has a direct effect on how they view your brand and business. And sometimes what is easy for you isn’t what is best for your audience.
Many of my clients contacted me because their original websites were not having a positive impact on their business. The following are some of the most common problems people ask me to fix when they choose to work with me.
Slow page load speed
Page speed is crucial for a good user experience, ranking well on search engines, and making sure your website achieves its goals (as I explain in more detail in Why page speed is Important).
There are a number of factors that affect page speed, including the number of files and the size of those files on any given page.
Because pre-built templates (such as WordPress templates) are not built for anyone in particular, they may contain files for, say, 100 different functions. Even if you only need your page to have three of those functions, your page will load the files for all 100 functions, slowing down the load speed.
Likewise, you might use plugins and extensions to add new features to your website. But these all load in their own set of files which add to the size of your page and slow it down.
A well-built website created by a professional web developer will combine and compress all the required resources into small, fast-loading files to ensure your visitors aren’t kept waiting around.
Another easily overlooked factor in page load speed is hosting. Investing in a decent hosting company is worth it, as cheaper options usually run websites on shared servers. This means you share the same resources with many other websites, and if one of your neighbours is hogging all the server power, your website will slow down as a result. It’s kind of like living in a flat share and not being able to enjoy a warm shower because your roommate is using all the hot water to wash the pots.
It also seems to me that many of the cheaper hosting companies rely on people’s lack of experience to exploit upsells for services such as email addresses, backups and SSL certificates (which are normally included with packages from reputable hosting companies). A good web developer can advise on respectable hosting companies who will be worth your investment.
Website displays poorly on phones
Mobile device traffic now accounts for just over 50 per cent of website usage in the UK, so if your site isn’t optimised for mobile devices, you are missing out.
One of the problems I often have to solve is where sites use lots of different third-party plugins which end up fighting with each other and causing errors. There is also the issue that generic templates are designed to do ALL the things, which means testing different factors is complex – with layout bugs the common result.
A website that is professionally built specifically for one purpose can be better tested to work well on phones and tablets.
Website not showing up in search engine results
I’ve already mentioned that Google (and other search engines) look to reward sites that give a good user experience, particularly in terms of being fast and mobile friendly.
Another factor is the content: is the site full of content that is truly valuable to users? Or is the content thin, ineffectively structured or irrelevant to search terms?
A solid content strategy is an important part of your success in search as well as being a crucial element of your marketing plans. I cover this in more detail in my Beginner’s Guide to SEO workshop.
An admin area that is difficult to update
Sometimes business owners acknowledge there are problems with their website, but they are put off doing something practical to improve things – simply because the admin areas are overly complicated to use.
The vast majority of business owners with whom I’ve worked don’t want to have to faff around with a page builder. Even if you do enjoy working with page builders, you need a certain degree of design skills to use them effectively. What most people want is simply the ability to add their content quickly and easily.
I want people to be confident in their ability to update their websites to use them to their full potential. So when working with WordPress, I typically use Advanced Custom Fields to build a bespoke page builder which is based specifically around my client’s requirements and their technical ability.
What this means is that they have more control over their site and fewer obstacles to achieving success with it!
Ultimately, a website that has not been professionally designed may simply be ineffective at accomplishing its intended goal, whether that’s generating leads or making sales.
This can be a combination of all the above points, and more, because it all ties together. These are some of the things to consider when you see that people visit your site but don’t do the thing or things you need them to do while they’re there.
Ask yourself the following:
- Has your site been designed specifically for people to complete a set goal?
- Is your site easy to use? Is the navigation straightforward and are the calls to action obvious and positioned effectively?
- Are you limited by what your chosen template can do, so you can’t make the site easier to use through special interface elements?
- Have you tested your site thoroughly on both mobile and desktop?
- Do you use analytics data to assess what works and what doesn’t, and make improvements accordingly?