User-Friendly Websites: A Basic Guide for Non-Techy Entrepreneurs

When you’re in the process of putting together your business website, you’re going to receive a lot of advice on what to do and not to do. One such advice that has become very common these days is the idea that your site needs to be user-friendly for it to effectively achieve its purpose.

While this may seem to be like some basic advice which you can pretty much ignore the fact is that you definitely want your site to be user-friendly. Or, what’s the point of having a website if it’s not going to be able to be used by those your business is looking to target?

But,

What Really Is Website User-Friendliness?

User-Friendly Websites

When website designers talk about user friendliness or user experience (UX) they are basically referring to the art of making your website simple and easy to use. The idea is to make the presentation of information in a clear and concise way. The arrangement of content and important items on the site should be free from any form of ambiguity. To achieve this you need to understand your customer’s online behavior. Without this insight building user-friendly websites can be daunting.

In these days when more and more people are using the internet for their shopping and other activities having a user-friendly website is not just something to be desired but a necessity. Applying the concepts of usability into your website design will significantly improve how easily visitors move through your website. This will in turn increase the amount of visitors who stay on your site, improve your conversions, and ultimately grow your business profits.

It’s tempting to think this is something that good website design will largely take care of for itself – and that might well be the case. However, you’d be surprised how many poorly designed sites there are that miss this vital component. It’s important therefore that you perform a check on your website to make sure you’ve got your grips on all of the following factors necessary for a user-friendly website.

What Makes a Website User Friendly?

1. Text Should Be Easy To Read

The easiest way of ticking this box is by choosing a dark text on a light background. It doesn’t have to be jet black on pure white; in fact, a cream background is thought to be easier to read off than perfect lily white. However, something within this general area will suffice.

Don’t use a dark background and light text anywhere on your site. It’s difficult to read for anyone, never mind those who might have vision impairments. It can also make a site look out of date, as this was a design “feature” many of the early websites used.

You don’t need to spend a lot of time worrying about the size of the text. Make sure it’s readable to your eyes, but aside from that, this is something most users will do for themselves by adjusting the screen size.

Power of Social Media

2. The Process Should Be Intuitive

If you’re guiding people towards a purchase of goods or services, then you don’t want to have them guessing at any step along the way. Keep contact details at the top of the site, along with a brief flowchart of what they should do to place an order or make a purchase online.

If this is a particular concern for you, then use sites like Fiverr and ask someone to complete a task on your site. They can then tell you what the experience was like with new eyes, rather than you trying to judge based off how you know the process works.

Website User-Friendliness

3. Keep the Basics Front and Center

It’s great if you want to talk about a new innovation on your business site – you should be doing that. Nevertheless, there are some sites where the “news” and other marginally irrelevant pieces of information dominate the landing page.

The most important thing for you to do is direct someone to using your site to make a purchase. That means the essentials for this should be easy to access from anywhere on the site. Place links to the about, contact, and ordering pages on every single page – this is easy to do using permanent headers, footers, or sidebars.

You don’t ever want to have someone lost in your site, wanting to make an order, and not sure where to click next!

What Makes a Website User Friendly?

Conclusion

All in all website usability or user-friendliness is about simplicity and ease of use. The above are just some suggestions on what you can do right now to improve the user experience on your business website. While there are many other things to consider start with these and you will see improvements.

Top 7 Small Business Website Mistakes and How to Overcome Them

In these days when digital commerce is the in-thing if your business does not have a website you’re indeed sabotaging your own success. But having a business website is not enough. That website should be able to meet the challenges of doing business online.

As you may be aware already, your small business website is most times, the first “touch-point” for potential customers. These days’ buyers use the search engines and social media platforms to research potential businesses before they buy. Whenever such potential customer finds you through such a search and visits your site they expect to meet a business that can help them with the solution they are looking for.

But how do they know if you can help them do this?

They can know that by what they see on your website. In a matter of seconds if they think otherwise, your competition is a click away!

Yes, First Impression Do Matter!

In this article I want to share with you a few mistakes of many small business websites in today’s internet culture. I will also attempt to proffer a solution for each.

So here we go…

Small business website mistakes you must avoid at all cost

7 Mistakes Your Small Business Website Should Avoid

1. Infrequent Updates

What is really the purpose of your business site? Well, one is helping your current and potential customers know your business better. And how do you do this? Through the content on your site.

This means to have a website that gains the most business, you must have the best, most up-to-date website possible. If a visitor feels that you do not properly maintain and update you business site, then chances are they will leave and find a similar business that does.

Solution: Constantly update your website content. If you’re not good with writing it’s advisable to get a professional web content writer to do this for you. Besides knowing that writing for the web is something that many small business persons do not have the experience of, the best route is definitely hiring the services of web content writers.

2. Javascript Pop Ups

A JavaScript pop up is a notification window that opens when you visit a website that states a message and has an “ok” button at the end. This was extremely popular during the website boom, but quickly become a no-no, mainly because people over used it. Not only would they add the pop up to the main page of their website, but they would also add one to each and every sub page.

Typically these pop ups did not contain any information that would be viewed as important to the viewer. It was annoying back then when e-commerce was in its infancy and it is much more annoying even now, since newer computer system also have a noise that goes with the popup.

Solution: There is a whole lot of things you can do to grow your business but Javascript is definitely not one of them. So, avoid the use of Javascript on your business sites. If you have a message that MUST display to the user before they can go further on your website, then a JavaScript pop up may still be a good option, but I strongly caution you to not overuse it.

3. Heavy Graphics

A lot of researches have shown that slow loading websites puts off visitors and ultimately affect your business, negatively. Here are some stats that will interest you: 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less and 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load. (Source)

It is important to note this especially since a good percentage of your visitors will be on a dialup connection. This means they will have trouble downloading your website if you have a large number of graphics on your website.

Solution: Unless your website is in flash (which I would advise against anyway) I suggest you try and avoid using any type of animated graphic, since they typically have large file sizes.

4. Using Heavy, High Contracting Colors

This was another thing that was popular during the internet boom that quickly became unpopular due to overuse. It was once believed that high contracting colors would grab the user’s attention. While this is true, it also has a negative effect since it would hurt the user eyes, and sway them away from the website.

Solution: Case studies like this one on colors and its effect on ecommerce success can help you when you choose your business website’s colors. The choice of your website color is actually based mainly on your business type. My website design company can greatly help you in this area if you need a professional touch!

Avoid these website mistakes for more success

5. Clutter Up Pages

If your website seems to be cluttered visitors will be less likely to view further into it, especially if they think they will have to weed out the information they need from the information that is useless to them.  Your site visitors have a lot of things fighting for their attention. You need therefore to make it easy for them to find what they want on your site so they can get about other things!

Solution: Do not have too much information on each page. You shouldn’t put more than one topic on each. Besides, you should have a good navigation system on your small business site and this will eliminate any problem you may have.

6. Lack of a Navigation System

As mentioned in point #5 above, a good navigation system is a good help in eliminating the problem of clutter. This was something that was lacking in many of the websites created during the internet boom. Once a visitor clicked on a page they were taken to a new page without a way to return or access additional pages within the website. Unfortunately, many small business website are still making this mistake today.

A navigation system insures that the visitor will be able to view your entire website. It will take the visitor back to the page that they originally come from, to the main page, and to the other major parts of the website. Additionally, the navigation (typically near the bottom of the page) should have links to things such as website polices and term and conditions.

Solution: Read solution to #5 mistake above!

Recommended: Best Ways To Easily Get Your Website Noticed Online!

7. Overusing Advertising

This is actually a fairly new problem with website, especially since Google started their Adsense program. Many websites have more ads then information on the page. A visitor does not want to have to weed though the ads to find the content that they are looking for.

The irony of the situation is: A visitor is more likely to click on an advertisement link if they do not feel that they are being bombarded by them. This is defiantly a situation where the saying “less is more” is true.

Solution: If you must place adverts on your small business website then understanding where to place them on the site matters. This article is a good read on this topic.

Conclusion

Your small business needs a website to compete favorably in our today’s digital economy. However, not all websites are built the same. Stay away from these website mistakes when building your business website. More importantly, ensure your business website is constantly updated.

From experience we’ve discovered that most small business persons do not update their business website because of the technicalities involved. But you can overcome this if your business website is built with a simple and understandable CMS like WordPress.org. It will do your small business great good therefore if you have such a website that you can easily update and maintain without resorting to some “experts”.

If you need such a great website solution for your small business then check out my website design company today.

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5 Key Elements to Consider When Designing a Professional Website

Are you considering a professional website design for your business?

Do you feel your business website is not presenting a professional image of your brand?

If you answer yes to any of these questions then you must understand that there are some key elements that a professional website must have if it’s to effectively convert visitors to buyers.

You see, a lot of online businesses are lacking in profitability not because they are selling the wrong products or because they are implementing the wrong traffic strategies but because their websites lack these basic elements.

Recent studies shows that these days, most people turn to the Internet when they want to find a particular product or business. This is because visiting a business website is much easier for a consumer to see what a business has to offer without leaving the house. The website is therefore the first point of call for many businesses. Considering this, a professional website is a MUST-HAVE for practically every business owner.

Professional Website Design Elements

 

If a first time visitor comes to your business site and, instead of being met by an appealing site, he/she is met by some amateur-looking site that first impression will definitely affect their response to what you’re offering. Now, don’t forget that your competition is a click away!

Indeed, first impressions do matter, especially when it comes to building your business website.

So how do you avoid losing business to your competitions because of your website design? The answer is by incorporating these five key elements.

Five Elements of a Professional Website

1. Captivating Images

Captivating images are a great addition to a website regardless of what a business owner is selling. In fact, many online shoppers notice the images on a website before they read a single word on the page. As an example, the owner of an online shop that sells pet supplies may want to put up several colorful images of dogs and cats at play. This serves to grab the attention of shoppers and makes it more likely that they will stay on the website to check out the products for sale.

Use captivating images for your site design

2. Clear, Succinct Text

Most online shoppers scan any text they see on a website. They want to find out what a website has to offer in a matter of seconds. This is why having clear, succinct text is so important. After scanning this type of text, shoppers are likely to peruse the merchandise on the site and, perhaps, make a purchase. A savvy online business owner understands that he or she only has a few seconds to make an impression on a potential customer.

3. Ease of Use

Online shoppers appreciate a website that allows them to find the products they want to see in a matter of seconds. For instance, the owner of an online clothing shop should set up her website so men and women can find exactly what they are looking for. Some owners of online clothing shops organize their merchandise by color, size or style. A website that provides shoppers with an easy, pleasant experience is likely to be successful.

Highlight product images in your site design

4. A Secure Method of Payment

Business owners who invest in a custom web design can set up a secure method of payment to ensure that they protect the personal information of their customers. This is a critical element of a professional website. A business owner’s customers must feel at ease with submitting their credit card numbers or bank account information when they are making an online purchase.

5. Accessible Contact Information

The last element that goes into making a professional website is giving shoppers a way to contact the business. Generally, a business owner provides a phone number for all types of customer service questions. Also, many owners display an email address for customers who want to contact the business via computer. Displaying contact information lends credibility to a business.

Conclusion

There is no doubt that creating a professional website is an owner’s first opportunity to make a positive impression on online shoppers. Your business website is your 24/7 sales rep. equip it with the design and it will effortlessly give you the results you so desire.

Over to you: What other elements of professional website design would you suggest be added to this list? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

What Is Your Website Saying About Your Business?

As I mentioned in another post, your business website is an important element in your online marketing equation. One aspect of this is the design. Your website design should be able to speak volume about your company and what you do. This is because when customers Google you (and all your customers will Google you), the first thing they will find is your website.

So it is important that you ask yourself: when your customers find your website on the SERPs what do you want them to know about you?

Remember, these people, in their quest for information related to what your business is offering, will find themselves on your page at the click of a link. Wouldn’t it be to your benefit and the good of the visitor if they can read about your business and what it can do for them?

Your business website should not only be attractive but also have the right message else, people will tire of it in seconds. And this will result in a high bounce rate on your site. You will want to avoid this, don’t you?

Then make sure your site is telling the right story about your company.

Designing your website to say the right thing about your business

Here are…

6 Important Things Your Website Should Say About Your Company

1. You are straightforward

Most small business website design looks the same. People favor an over the top, futuristic design style when they choose their site, for some bizarre reason. If you try too hard to look modern and cool, you will end up looking old-fashioned and outdated. The design of your page doesn’t need to be flashy; it needs to be functional. If you are a straightforward company offering useful services, that should come across to the user.

2. You are user-friendly

When people visit a particular website, they expect to know how it works. You might think that there are loads of variables when it comes to the layout of sites, but there should not be. In general, people should know where the buttons or pages are on your site. You should either have a bar going across the header of the page or down the side of it. In that bar, you need to list either the categories or pages of your website.

3. You are contemporary

The last thing you want is for your website to look like it is from a different era. Back in the late 1990’s, website design was basic, yet colorful. You would find a whole load of sites with colored backgrounds and pale text. We now know that this style is, for the most part, illegible. Avoid making some of the biggest design mistakes or people will assume that your company has not changed in the last twenty years.

4. You are legitimate

If you expect people to make transactions on your site (i.e. they pay for services or products on it), you need to show them that you are real. Users are wary when it comes to giving their bank details online, and rightly so. That issue could hinder you if you are a legitimate commerce business. If your site looks fake, nobody will trust you.

5. You care about the customer

You already know that you need to care about your customers if you want to run a successful enterprise. Your website needs to reflect that ethos so that people understand that they are important to you. You need a contact form (or even a chat box) so that users can message you with their worries or questions.

6. You are tech-savvy

Sometimes, terrible web design speaks for itself. If the design of your site looks like nothing a user has ever seen before, they will find it confusing. The page should show people that you know what you are doing. If it appears that you don’t have the first idea when it comes to the internet, people will know you are not tech-savvy. These days, everybody needs to understand the technological world if they want to make it.

Conclusion

Don’t give people the wrong impression about your business. Your site is not just a functional entity; it is a direct reflection of your company. If you want to keep customers coming back for more, your site should do all the hard work for you.

Your turn: What is your experience with your business website? Do share with us in your comments below.

Image Credit: Lindsey Turner

5 Quick Tips For Turning Negative Criticisms into Profits as a Web Designer!

Working as a web designer is one creative field where there could be a lot of criticisms. And if you’re in the web design business then you must be  prepared for this.

There are times that critics, not really understanding the flow of your thoughts, will disapprove of your work and will even put you in a situation of self-doubt. If you are not careful and you take these criticisms negatively, then you will only be pressing the self-destruct button. However, if you’d learn to take the criticisms with a positive stride, it could lead you up the ladder of excellence.

As a web designer, you need to understand that some criticisms are simply a pointer to some deficiencies in your design.  With this understanding you should seek ways of turning what these critics intended for evil into something great for your business. Instead of being agitated you should rather remain calm and hold your composure.

In this article I want to give you some tips on how you can turn any negative criticism into good returns for your website design business.

handling web design critics

1. Do Not Be On The Defensive

In the face of criticism, many web designers make the mistake of jumping on the defensive. Taking the criticisms personally they are quick in lashing back with double venom. But this is not the way to go. Rational judgment is necessary in situations like this. If you want to prove a point to your critics then try to be assertive rather than aggressive. If you are confident about your design then there is no need to get involved in needless arguments. Proving your point with rational reasoning will make the critic to understand your point of view and you would have won a new follower or client! So learn to speak to your critics in a calm and confident manner.

2. Be Positive

You must understand that web designing is a relative concept.  In this work, there is no ‘right or ‘wrong’.  Two people will never have the same perspective when looking at a design.  There is no way that their opinions will ever tally. So you must realize that it is impossible to make everyone happy.  There is no point in trying to achieve that objective. Of course, there will be those who will disagree with what you’re doing but that shouldn’t be a reason to look down upon your work. Let the critics found the faults but for you, while you turn them into ingredients for better designs. So stay positive!

3. Handle Client’s Criticism With Tact

If the criticism is coming from a client then you must be very deftly in handling the criticism. You must understand that a wrong move can spell doom for your project. Be open to your client’s feedback and try to understand what he/she really wants. If the client is very harsh, do not make the mistake of keeping mum; ask the client to explain the requirements in detail so that you can make the necessary corrections in the design that you have conceived.

4. Look At Suggestions

As mentioned earlier, every criticism could be great suggestions to improve the design. It doesn’t matter from whom it is coming from. It may be from an amateur web designer or even a layman. There are many pros and cons of a criticism of a web design and if the pros are more than the cons then it would be a good idea to implement the suggestions. If someone has rightly pointed out some flaws in your design, then accept it and make the necessary corrections.

5. Separate Useful Information

As a web designer you will get hundreds of comments on your blog and website and it is your duty to bring out the useful information from all these. You can actually get ideas on how to make your website far better than the present form. Just scan through the different comments and look for suggestions that might have come from experienced web designers. You can even thank a critic for any suggestion that have helped you in designing a website.

Conclusion

Succeeding as a web designer comes with many challenges. Trying to satisfy clients with different backgrounds and understanding is one of these challenges. You simply need to be creative not only with your designs but in handling criticisms and differences in opinions as you deal with your clients. No matter where the criticism may come from, with tact and goodwill you can turn it into something more beneficial for your web design business.

So what do you think? Do you have some further suggestions a designer can handle negative criticisms? Let’s hear in the comments below.