Tag Archives | websites

Why everything you know about websites has changed

Not so many years ago, businesses didn’t need to worry about having a website at all. Then they realised it was essential to be found on the Internet, and reproduced their brochures as static web pages.

The first web developers were mostly techie, and created sites that worked but maybe didn’t look very pretty. Then creative web designers got involved, and built sites that looked great but maybe weren’t as effective as they could be. For example, splash pages coded in Flash that can’t be read by search engines or on mobiles, and that meant one extra click for human visitors before they can even enter the site, which of course is an opportunity to lose them.

Now, web marketers and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) experts influence site design to ensure the structure is simple and easy to navigate, the code compliant, the layout clean and clear, and the copy informative, keyword-rich and with strong calls-to-action.

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Objective setting

ChickenThe biggest questions start with Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. And the greatest of all is Why. Consider why you do any marketing before you start. Work out what is your most wanted response to any online or offline marketing communication.

For your print marketing, do you want to get someone to pick up the phone or send an email? If yes, make this ‘call to action’ big and bold so they can’t miss it.

When people visit your website, do you want to capture their email address for future use? (If not, you should!) Then encourage them to sign up to a non-salesy newsletter and offer an incentive such as an exclusive downloadable report.

Why send a newsletter? Not to be an advert. To keep in touch, remind people you exist and what you do, and ultimately, so you are in the front of their mind when they need you or know someone who does (nudge nudge, hint hint).

Why are you on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or Google+? It’s not directly to boost sales, but you might undertake some social media activity in order to drive traffic to your site (where you do your selling). Remember, once you’ve attracted someone to your website, you don’t want to lose them to your content elsewhere. So don’t make too much emphasis on the social media icons on your site in case people click away.

And finally, why do you network face-to-face? It’s not to sell to people in the room – it’s to build relationships that may lead to referrals in future.

photo credit: Why via photopin (license)

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How to write your own website (part 3)

Things change fast. So you may want to write your own website, instead of paying a professional every time you want to update it. Building your website using a Content Management System (CMS) such as WordPress or Joomla makes this easy for business-owners to do. But what content should you include?

Here is the last in my series of tips.

What others say

Case studies or testimonials sell you better than anything you can say yourself. So if you don’t include them on your website, you’re missing an important trick. On the Analytics for one website I produced, I found that one-third of people who visited the home page clicked the testimonials link. That just shows how much client comments mean to your site visitors!

Be professional

How you present yourself online and offline affects customer perception of the quality you deliver. If you want to come across as professional, a bespoke design will present your business much better than a free site design package. Similarly, you should avoid using a free hotmail, gmail or btinternet email address. Bespoke email addresses such as yourname@yourwebaddress.com are usually included free with your domain name, so there’s no excuse not to. And, if you use the likes of VistaPrint for your print marketing, at least pay the extra to remove their logo from the back.

Choose your colours carefully

Research colour psychology before you settle on your logo and website colours (there’s lots of advice on Wikipedia). For example, if you’re in financial services, for example, blue is a better colour to use as it means stability, whereas red means danger or debt. The decisions you make about your brand identity should be consistent across all your marketing, not just online.

Be customer-focused

Always put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Don’t bother including ‘our values’ and ‘our mission statement’. In most cases, these should be internal documents not customer-facing ones. (And, often, they only state minimum expectations anyway.) It’s better to say what you do for your customers, using language they understand and will respond to.

Pet peeve

Be sure to put the space in the phone number in the right place. For greater London it should be 020 8xxx xxxx not 0208 xxx xxxx. This is a common mistake. Again, Wikipedia gives more information. Just search ‘0208’.

A final thought

Do make sure your site works in all browsers and platforms. More and more people are browsing the web ‘on the move’. So make sure it looks OK for Internet Explorer, but also the likes of Chrome, Firefox and Safari, as well as iPads, Androids and iPhones etc.

I originally wrote this article for Fresh Business Thinking

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How to write your own website (part 2)

Here are some more top tips for effective web content.

Follow the F-pattern

Eye-tracking studies show that website visitors tend to glance along the top two lines of text, then scan down the left hand edge taking in only the first two words of each line, and perhaps look across the page once more. They spend very little time looking at the bottom right hand corner of the web page. In fact, the pattern of their views looks like the shape of an F!

When you know about this F-pattern, you can arrange your content to suit it. For example, write a powerful headline at the top of the page that answers ‘what’s in it for me’. Add a sub-heading mid-way down the page, especially if the first couple of words are significant ones. And avoid putting anything important in the bottom right hand corner.

Keep it simple

Because reading light on screen is harder than reading ink on paper, your web copy should be about half the length of your printed copy.

– DON’T use long paragraphs of prose
– DO use bullet points and click-through links for those who want to access more detail

Pass the we we test

Write from your customer’s point-of-view instead of your own. To do this, you need to include the word ‘you’ more than you use ‘I’ or ‘we’. For example:

– DON’T write ‘We sell wonderful widgets’
– DO write ‘If you want wonderful widgets, you’ve come to the right place’

Call to action

As with any piece of marketing, you need to tell readers what you want them to do. It might be ‘Click to read more about noodle-bending’, or ‘Phone now to book an appointment’ or ‘Fill in the enquiry form today’.

Make the language strong, for example

– DON’T write ‘You can contact us on…’
– DO write ‘Please contact us on…’ (or, even better, ‘Click the Callback button now and we’ll contact you within 5 minutes / 24 hours’)

Moving images

Our expectations of on-screen viewing are set by TV and cinema. What’s more, we can’t help looking at something that moves. You have probably noticed this when you’re in a pub with a TV on the corner, and you just can’t help watching even if you don’t want to!

You can use this tendency to make your site come alive. I don’t recommend animated gifs (dancing clip art) or unnecessary Flash, but video is excellent to include.

You don’t always need BBC-quality. You can record your videos cheaply on a Flip camera or smartphone, and upload them to your own YouTube channel at no cost. Be sure to add your keywords in the description (remember, YouTube is the world’s second-largest search engine). You can embed videos simply by clicking the ‘share’ button.

Make sure your videos don’t play automatically — that’s just annoying, especially for anyone viewing your site in an open plan office. And people are busy and impatient, so it’s best to keep each video under 2 minutes long.

I originally wrote this article for Fresh Business Thinking

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How to write your own website (part 1)

These days, more and more businesses have a Content Management System (CMS) website, or use a blogging tool such as WordPress to build their own.

Quite right too. Why should you have to pay a web professional every time you want to update something? But if you don’t know what you’re doing, you might be losing custom. Here are my top tips for effective web content.

Your home page

Don’t use a ‘splash page’ (any extra click e.g. ‘enter site’ is a chance to lose site visitors). Please don’t start ‘Welcome to my website’ – it’s dated and unnecessary! In my view, your home page copy should be more about your customers than it is about you, so they know they’ve landed in the right place i.e.

• DON’T write: ‘We are X, based in Y and we specialise in Z’.

• DO write: ‘Looking for A, B or C? You’ve come to the right place!’

More than any other, your home page should answer ‘What’s In It For Me?’ from the customer’s point of view.

DOs and DON’Ts

• DO use direct language (it makes your copy more persuasive and appealing)

• DON’T write: ‘in order to allow the client to concentrate on their core business’

• DO write: ‘in order to allow you to concentrate on your core business’

• DO write as though you are talking to one person, not lots (they are reading it one at a time)

• DON’T write ‘We work closely with our loyal customers’

• DO write ‘If you want to work closely with friendly local experts, you’ll find our door is always open. We’re here 24/7 at the end of the phone or email ready to help you.’

• DO write so it doesn’t go out-of-date

• DON’T write ‘We have been in business for 17 years’

• DO write ‘We have been providing wonderful widgets since 1992′

• DON’T have wasteful Flash animations (or even worse, ghastly dancing clip-art animated gifs) as they take up bandwidth and search engines can’t ‘read’ them

• DON’T include irritating typos or broken ‘404 not found’ links

• DON’T use wildly inconsistent fonts and sizes, and avoid Comic Sans which is perceived as truly amateur

About page

People do business with people. They like to know whom they’re dealing with, and what goes on behind the scenes. It’s therefore wise to include a Letter from the MD, Meet the Team biographies, and/or picture/s of you (especially when YOU are what you are selling).

People are busy! They are easily bored and click away. So make sure your most important information is first. If you include a company history, write it in reverse chronological order, so what you are doing now is at the top and how you started is at the end.

Added value page/s

21st century marketing is about sharing not selling. So include ‘added value’ such as FAQs, glossary, useful articles or hints and tips. Call the page ‘Free resources’ and see your pageviews soar!

I originally wrote this article for Fresh Business Thinking

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When it’s OK to break all the rules

Ling is the ‘Chinglish’ IT geek and constant creative who famously turned down investment from Dragon’s Den.

LingsCars is her chaotic website, often nominated ‘world’s worst’. It would not be considered ‘elegant’ by any stretch of a web designer’s imagination. However, Ling has won endless awards for her business.

Admittedly, the site will only appeal to people who ‘get’ her sense of humour. For example, she writes ‘WAH’ all over the page, has a ‘car-u-like-ator’ that works like a fruit machine to help you choose your new car, and includes a ‘moans’ page where she deals publicly (and cheekily) with complaints.

What comes through is a genuine personality. (People do business with people.)

Her secret of success? She’s coded a highly automated system that is also a very human experience. Placing an order makes you smile at every stage.

At one point in the process you are offered a free gift such as a ‘cash bribe’. You are then sent a branded envelope including a personalised letter, a banknote worth 6-7p that her sister picked up from the bank in China, together with some wrapped Polo mints that she’s taken from the counter.

It makes you actually enjoy the process of dealing with leasing paperwork. The cost to Ling is endless imagination plus a stamp and a tiny percent of her profit. The result is this blog and allegedly more letters from satisfied customers than any other site on the Internet.

Ling does cheap car leasing, but she could have sold anything from theatre tickets to holiday bookings. Imbued with her customary humour and customer service focus, I’m sure she’d make a success of those businesses too. Even if her website does nearly make your eyes bleed.

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