In the year 2017, if you are a professional, or own a business, a website is as essential to your marketing as a social media presence. Some business owners and professionals think that you need to be highly experienced in web design and need to be a programmer, but in reality, you need to know what your website will tell your customers and how you want them to navigate it.
Remember that your professional site is a form of marketing much like a resume, so you want it to make a solid first impression.
Here’s some ideas to help you develop a well-functioning website:
Make sure that important information is easy to find
As a business, it’s up to you to direct the potential customer to the most important information. Are you running specials or sales? Do you have a new product line? Have you changed a policy recently?
Along with easy to find, comes the cleanliness of the layout of the website. Websites should not be overwhelming, and redundant elements or information should be condensed. Newer website templates are designed and organized to allow commonly-used elements to be placed in strategic locations.
If your brand owns a number of properties, do your properties have their own websites, and does your brand cleanly link to all of them in some way?
Will your site open on a mobile device?
There’s nothing more disappointing for someone searching for services in a pinch than a site not loading on a mobile device, especially if that’s the only way your customer is accessing the web. While your site’s dominant viewership may be from a desktop computer, more users by the day are doing things with mobile devices. I can tell you that short of writing these articles, the vast majority of my internet browsing is phone or tablet.
Due to the smaller screen real-estate on phones and tablets versus computer screens, it’s reasonable that some elements of your website won’t show up on mobile, but they should still exist.
Does your site load quickly?
If your site doesn’t load within seconds outside of any issues with your hosting provider, that should be fixed. Don’t overload your website with excess apps, advertising, or widgets. Ensure that anything extraneous that runs on your site is to the benefit of your site. Consider that your site will be viewed from Apple computers and devices that don’t work with Flash. Ten years ago it was considered a practice to inform users that your site was best optimized to be viewed on certain browsers, but today, if your site doesn’t work on my browser, I’m less likely to view it. Optimally, your site should work on all major browsers (read: Safari, Chrome, Firefox, and yes, Internet Explorer).
Do you have pictures on your website? If so, have you considered using JPGs as they are the quickest to load on a given website. Furthermore, are those images germane to your brand or any services you offer? When inserting pictures taken from a smartphone or tablet, they are going to be large, both in file and physical size. Consider scaling down the image on the page while giving the customer the option of clicking to enlarge – remember, they may be viewing from a mobile device and that 2000×1000 image won’t render properly.
Do you have any videos on your website? If so, do you have them hosted externally, with a link to it? Furthermore, are they germane to your brand or any services your offer? Additionally, are your videos with sound captioned? Not everyone is viewing a website from a place where sound is appropriate; furthermore, your customer may be hard of hearing.
Freelancers: Do you have a picture on your site?
If your URL is your name, you want to connect your customer to you as a person, and not just a business. Humans are visual creatures by nature and like associating faces with names.
Some other recommendations on that picture:
- Take it in front of a neutral, non-distracting background.
- Be sure to smile.
- Take it from the waist-up and ensure that you’re dressed professionally. Pretend that this picture will be featured in an article used by the press.
- Don’t use a ‘selfie.’ Despite how you’re dressed and how you present yourself, ‘selfies’ are most frequently seen on casual social networks, and there’s nothing casual about your professional website.
- Have a professional photographer take the picture. Not only will they have an understanding of framing, lighting, how to have you pose, which outfits to wear, and how to shoot you, they can also do some editing so that the photos look your best.
- Consider updating your picture periodically. This is part of your brand and you want to make sure your look is always current.
Make sure your site has a professionally-sounding domain associated with it
Ideally your website should be the same as your brand name unless something gets in the way of it being an effective website. You also want customers to be able to find it easily and remember it for future business.
With the widespread and now myriad of top-level domains (TLDs) available, there’s no reason why people can’t personalize their website domains. It may be more difficult and a logistical nightmare for established businesses, but depending on the industry, I don’t see why it can’t be done.
Personalization helps you stand out. By now, people have learned to recognize TLDs even if they aren’t cognizant of what they mean. The majority understand COM to be an everyday website, nearly making NET obsolete. Most see GOV as being a government-funded/sponsored website. It’s understood that EDU is indicative of a registered and accredited school. Now that TLDs such as LAWYER, LGBT, PHOTOGRAPHER, AUTHOR, and others are now coming into the limelight, brands could take advantage of registering them to help with visibility.