Last Thursday, I had the pleasure of speaking at the December meeting of Ladies 4 Networking in Ossett. I had 10 minutes to give an insightful talk about what I do and hopefully impart some wisdom on the ladies who attended.
The title of my talk was "What does your website say about your business?" and here's the write up:
We all know that first impressions count. When we meet someone face-to-face for the first time, we will look at how they dress, how they sound, how old they are and the language they use, among other things. All these signals create an impression.
It's the same for your website. The first time someone visits your website, they will look at various elements to build an impression of your company in their minds.
Let's look at 5 things a new visitor to your website may look at.
The overall design of your site, whether it's corporate, bright and animated or somewhat 'homemade' looking, gives the visitor an impression about your company. If your site looks homemade, it applies you're probably a very small company with small budgets and there's nothing wrong with this if this is the impression you want to give. If your site looks corporate, it gives the impression that you're a larger company. There's no perfect design solution that fits everyone's business - it's all about the impression you want to give and whether your current website achieves this.
As soon as a visitor begins reading the content on your website, they'll start to get an idea about your company through the language you use. Your website content may be conversational and informal or it could be more technical and impersonal. There's nothing wrong with either of these, but it should be appropriate to your target market.
If you have identified your target market as large corporations or technical departments, an informal, conversational tone may not be appropriate. If your target market is small businesses, the local community or charitable organisations, then an informal tone may be a good option and give the impression that your business is a personal service with a personality that's approachable and easy to work with.
3. Accessibility and Usability
The next thing your new visitor is likely to do is to browse your website to find the information they want. Whether you make this easy for them or not can have a huge impact on what they think about you as a company and whether you are easy to do business with. Being more open and having all the information within easy reach on your website can only be a good thing.
To get genuine feedback on how easy your site is to use, enlist some volunteers - these can be friends, family or colleagues that you know will give you an honest opinion. Or even post a link to your social networks and ask your followers or group members for their thoughts too.
A simple way to make your website more credible is to have your office address on your website, usually in the footer section or on the 'Contact' page. (note: I appreciate this isn't always appropriate, especially if you work from home). Having a physical address provides some reassurance to your visitors that you are an actual business, not just a website. The same applies for your phone number. Just knowing that they can pick up the phone and speak to a human being can give that extra bit of reassurance that you're a bona fide business.
If you have a blog or news section on your website, when was the last time you added an article? If you quote facts and figures from reports - are these the most recent figures? Looking at the footer of your website, do you have a copyright statement that doesn't display the current year?
Keeping your website up to date and current is very important. If your site is out of date if can imply that either a) you don't care enough about your online customers to bother updating the site with the most current information; or b) the website is no longer maintained because the company no longer exists. Both scenarios can be quite damaging, so update the site, review the content and reassure visitors that your company is thriving!
I would advise people to review the content and the design of their websites on a regular basis, say once a year. It can form part of your annual business review and marketing strategy for the following 12 months. It doesn't mean you need a new website building every year, it just means you should be open to making changes and improvements if needs be. More and more people are using the internet to research companies, find their contact details, opening hours etc, so you need to make a good impression!