You Are Your Website

When customers or potential customers come to your website, they aren’t just visiting your website, they are interacting with you. From their perspective, there is little distinction between interacting with you personally and your website.

There are many important elements to a website, far too many too to cover in just a few paragraphs. I’ll try to hit on a few key thoughts, but the most important step you can take right now is backwards. Take a step back and look at your website through the eyes of your customer or client. Forget everything you know about your business as you consider some of the key elements below in regards to your website.

It’s Not About You

Top of the list and the reason for taking a step back is that your website isn’t about you. Or at the very least, it probably isn’t for you. It is critically important to think about your website in terms of your visitor. What are they looking for? Why are they here? What’s in it for them? And this actually leads us into the next point that is important enough to stand on its own.

The Only Dumb Question Is The One Not Answered

Don’t make your visitor feel dumb. No, you can’t always answer every question that a visitor may have, but every website should make an effort to try to address some of the most basic questions. This may be done throughout the website or you may have a specific section, the ever-so popular FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) section is a perfect example.

Every business and every site could use an FAQ at the very least. Initially you may start out by creating some questions that you think your visitors would have or have asked in the past. It is good to make it a practice to try to keep track of questions that come up through interacting with customers as these may be excellent additions. You might even provide a way for visitors to ask questions on your site. Either way, your customers will help you create new content for your website that will also help attract new customers.

Most important thing to remember: don’t believe that you are going to encourage visitors to call or stop in for answers if they aren’t on your website. It may be tempting to use your website as a conduit to a live connection, that simply by providing your contact information, your website will drive business. Your website should help establish rapport and build trust with your customer by helping them without making them jump through hoops. From your perspective, they are interacting with your website; from their perspective, they are interacting with you.

Don’t Tell Me What To Do

Take a look at your website. Do you tell people to use a specific web browser or recommend that they use a certain resolution? How do you think you would feel as a customer who came to your website and didn’t use that browser or had a screen resolution that was different? What kind of message are you sending? How would you feel going out to eat and being sat at a table by the bar when you wanted a booth by the window? Or being told how your meal was going to be prepared rather than being served to your liking?

There is no reason for your site to be restricted to a specific browser. It is important to understand that different browsers may render websites differently. Your web developer should work to minimize any differences though and should avoid developing in a way that requires a specific browser. While you may have your site developed for a certain resolution, you had best make sure that it is developed around the majority of your visitor’s settings and preferences, not yours or your designers. A lot of sites get developed at a larger resolution than they probably should because the designer doesn’t like being restricted to a smaller resolution… not a very good explanation for your visitors.

We’ve Been Online Since The Beginning

Just look at our website. The web is a fast moving, constantly changing and advancing environment. One of the best features to websites versus traditional media is that you can make changes and keep things fresh without the concern of having boxes of “whatever” in the back room that need to be used up.

One of the challenges though is that your website can still become dated. This is especially true if your website is more than 5 years old. The advancements with CSS (cascading style sheets) alone over the last few years have given a lot more power and capabilities in design. If you haven’t taken a look at your website lately, now may be a good time to go back and take a look. Does it seem dated? How does it compare to others in your industry? How does it compare to others… period. One thing to keep in mind is that your website may be judged by other websites outside your industry as well as your competitors. And this judgment will form an impression on your products, services and your business as a whole. Fair? Maybe not, but it is what it is.

This doesn’t mean that you need the hottest technologies and flashy, splashy bells and whistles. Most of that doesn’t really serve your visitor’s best interest anyway, it is merely for your designer to show off or keep from getting bored. So be careful that you aren’t adding in a bunch of stuff merely because you can. Again, it all needs to come back to your visitor.

We Seem To Have A Disconnect

This can be a challenge for many reasons. Perhaps you were working with a limited budget when your website was developed so you had to use a template design. Or maybe you ended up going with a design and look because someone just happened to like it or thought it was really cool. Whatever the reason, it is important to make sure that your website connects with your business and all of your other brand identity materials.

If your website looks different than your business card, which looks different than your letterhead, and none of which seems to tie in at all with your office or store, your image is out of alignment. You end up telling your customer that you aren’t really sure who you are or what you are trying to be. You end up painting a less than professional image. You may have the best products or services, but this type of image erodes confidence in the eyes of your customer. Make sure your website is aligned with every other aspect of your business and you’ll build a much stronger brand identity.

These are just a few things to consider, but they are very important and something that everyone should be able to evaluate. You may be able to resolve some of these on your own, and others may need professional help. Either way, the first step is determining if you have issues. Be sure to review your site every few months to make sure that you aren’t drifting off course. You might even want to talk with customers to find out any issues that they see or for ideas on what they would like to see.