These 14 web site design tips can help you build a site your customers will buy from again and again.
Most small businesses recognize the need for a website, and have one. Business owners know that their customers – whether they’re consumers, B2B, or government agencies – routinely shop on the web. Even customers who make purchases offline or make them as a result of recommendations or referrals tend to check a company’s website before they visit the store or pick up the phone to talk to a salesperson.
Having a web site and profiting from it don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand, however. Design, navigation and content mistakes often prevent websites from living up to their owners’ expectations.
Make sure your website doesn’t get in the way of your customers doing business with you. These 14 tips will help you improve your website so you can increase the sales and or leads you get from web visitors.
Make it look professional.
While there are still some pretty ugly web sites that are relatively successful, for the most part, customers expect a company’s web site to be neat and professional. Fonts, font colors, text size, and headline sizes should be standardized throughout the site and easily readable on desktop computers, laptops and smartphones. Multicolored text, multiple colored circles or squares containing text, moving arrows, and other similar elements are confusing to the visitor and look amateurish. Keep in mind, too, that white text on a black background and black text on darker colors like reds or blues can be difficult to read.
Watch out for typos and other errors.
Typos and errors such as phrases that could have multiple (sometimes laughable) meanings are easy to miss, especially when you’re the one doing the writing. They are also easy miss if your native language isn’t the same as the language of your website. For example, I once saw a jewelry site that had a half-carrot diamond ring on sale.
Make your site easily readable on smartphones.
If you’re using a storefront, WordPress or some other website builder, look for “responsive” templates to use for your site. What these do is resize your web pages so they are viewable on any size device. For the most part, that means shifting multi-column formats, so only one column appears on a smartphone, and reducing the width of each page so it can be viewed without scrolling from side to side.
Don’t hide what you sell.
In many instances, the “content” that visitors want is information about the products they want to buy. If they can’t quickly find what they’re looking for they’ll leave. They’ll leave if your pages take a long time to load, or it’s difficult to place an order, fill out a form, or see what’s in the shopping cart. They’ll leave and go buy from a competitor’s site that’s easier to use.
Categorize your offerings.
If you sell a lot of different items, try to classify them in some way to make them easier to find. For instance if you were selling jewelry, you might have one category for earrings, another for necklaces, and another for bracelets. If you have many types of items in each category, break the categories up into subcatergories such as diamond earrings, gold earrings, silver earrings, or whatever is appropriate.
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Make your site easy to navigate.
Businesses and consumers today have little time to waste. If they can’t find what they want quickly on your site they’ll move on. To help them find their way around, be sure all of your pages have navigation links on them. These may be at the top of the page or right side for desktop viewers. For mobile viewers, use a “hamburger” menu (ie, a symbol with three horizontal lines) and/or the word Menu to link to display the navigation when clicked. Include a search function on your site as well.
Tell them how to reach you.
Customers want to know who you are and how they can contact after they’ve made a purchase. In addition to including your phone number (along with your business hours) on every page, you should give people a way to contact you in email. The best way to do that is to link to a form that lets people indicate their name, their contact info and their reason for contacting you. Be sure your business address is easy to find, too. Shoppers want to know that your company is a legitimate establishment and won’t disappear after they make their purchase.
Encourage browsing and impulse buys.
Retail stores increase sales by putting items that make good impulse buys in near the check out counter. You can do something similar on your web site to increase product sales. If you’re using an online storefront, one way to do this (if the software allows) is to include images showing related items when a customer clicks to add a product to their cart. If you have a blog on your site, include product photos in posts and link to related products that you sell. Post the same images in your social media and link them to your storefront. Run banner ads for your own products on editorial pages on your web site, too. These ads will work like ads on the window of your favorite supermarket. They’ll remind visitors of goodies you have in other parts of your web site.
Accept multiple types of payments.
To maximize your sales, be sure you give customers as many methods for making purchases online as possible. In addition to accepting credit cards, you should be set up to accept PayPal and other payment systems, If you sell to corporations, you may need to accept checks or to receive payments via ACH transfer directly into your bank account. And while a majority of people buy directly online, some prefer to call in their orders. So, be sure to make your phone number visible on every page of your website. Have your programmer set up the phone number in click-to-call format for mobile users.
Sell from your Thank You page.
Customers who have just made a purchase are usually your biggest fans. Be sure you email a thank you note to them as soon as they have completed their purchase. In addition to thanking them for buying and letting them know when to expect delivery on shipped goods, add a line or two about other products they may be interested in with links to purchase them, of course.
Include a feedback form.
A feedback form serves three purposes. First, it gives your customers another way to reach you. Second, it lets you know what customers think about your products and services and what they wanted but can’t find. Finally, the feedback form is good for public relations. Having it on your site will help customers form an impression of your company as one that cares what it’s customers have to say. Put the feedback form where people can find it easily on your web site. This might be on a navigational menu, or as a text link.
Answer email and phone calls quickly.
One of the leading attractions of the Internet is its immediacy. You can find information, shop for products, send and receive letters, place orders, send invoices, view pictures, and access documents 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But that’s also one of the leading disadvantages of the web – at least for small business owners. Because the web and online services are available 24 hours a day, visitors expect them to be staffed around the clock, too. If they have a question, they expect to get a response in hours, not days. To keep customers happy, plan to answer all email and phone calls within 12 hours or less. If you can’t do this yourself, consider hiring a virtual assistant to handle inquiries. If you let customers buy online, be sure your online ordering system is set up to send out a thank you note as soon as the purchase is completed. Customers who make a purchase ata 11 PM aren’t going to want to wait until 9 AM the following morning to have their order acknowledged.
Help people who stumble into your web site find their way back.
When visitors find your web site, they may save or print some of your information to read at a later time. To make sure they can find their way back, be sure that every page on your site includes the name of your web site, your phone number and your URL on the bottom of the page. To avoid typing that information in manually on every page include it in the footer (the bottom section) of whatever template you use to create web pages.
Sign them up for an email list.
Email is one of the best ways to turn one-time site visitors into customers, and to turn customers into repeat buyers. Put an email signup box on every page of your website. Most email service providers can provide you code to create that signup box. Better yet, off the customer something such as a free downloadable booklet or a discount on future purchases if they sign up for your list. Then, send mail to your list regularly. You could announce new products, discounts, or provide industry or product information of interest to your customers. The more often you mail (within reason) the more repeat and new sales you’ll get.
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