We see lots of small businesses making fundamental mistakes when they get their web site designed and developed.
This can be due to a number of basic flaws:
- They let the designer loose without specific instructions
- They focus too much on design/looks and not content/feel
- They forget about their customers and focus on their own likes/dislikes
- The site is not clean, crisp and easy to read
- They look for a free Web presence, assuming they will get the same as from a decent site developer
- They get bogged down in providing technical information, forgetting about the potential ‘layman’ customer
- They over-complicate their web site, putting the average customer off before they find what they want
- They try to be too clever, making a flashy, but non-productive site
Regardless of the reasons, a web site is not just there for you to feel superior, it’s primary purpose is to convey information to your customer as simply and seamlessly as possible with a view to making them choose to purchase goods or services from you instead of your competition.
So, with that in mind, we’ve compiled the following list of the Top 10 things we think customers (or web site readers) look for when viewing a small business web site:
1) What you are actually offering
It is amazing the number of websites we visit where it’s not simple to actually grasp what is being offered. Ensure you make it a priority to show clearly and concisely on your home page what you offer in terms of products and services.
Don’t get too carried away and scare off the reader. Give them a summary of your offerings, without a novel describing these in too much detail.
2) Unique Selling Points (USP’s)
Your customers want to know what makes you unique, what sets you apart from your competition, and why they should buy from you as opposed to all the other companies in your sector.
3) Clear ‘Contact Information’
Again, amazingly, some web sites do not offer their contact information clearly. It is imperative that you show your contact details clearly, and that these are displayed throughout your web site, and are easily found/navigated to.
It is well known nowadays that a street address and a landline number go a long way to building trust with your client-base and readers, but we would go a step further and suggest you should provide as many methods of contact as are feasible (eg mobile telephone, online contact form, call-back feature, map/directions, online/live chat, etc).
4) Ease of use
It is important that your web site is simple to use, not everyone is a computer whizz and they need to be able to find what they want quickly and simply. Ease of navigation is a huge priority on any web site, and the fewer clicks someone has to make to get to the information they want, the better for your conversion rates.
5) Call to Action
To get a user to actually purchase something from your site, contact you with their enquiry, or sign up for your newsletter, etc, it is important to give them the information they need quickly and to lead them towards the appropriate ‘action’ you wish them to perform.
This is called the ‘Call To Action’ on a website, and it should grab the readers attention almost immediately they hit your site. If you simply overload them with information, without leading them off in directions mutually beneficial to both of you, you will lose them quickly.
6) Accreditations or Testimonials
If you can list accreditations, awards, client testimonials, etc. onto your web site, these go a long way to building up a good reputation and trust with your readers and potential customers.
Ensure that, if a customer sends you a message, gives you a positive feedback, or drops an email thanking you for your service, that you add these to your web site as a testimonial.
In our view, the proper and polite way to do this is to always check first with your customer – asking them if you can use their comments as a testimonial on your web site. Also give them a link back to their own web site from their testimonial when you use it.
If you don’t get these automatically, do not be frightened to ask a customer for a testimonial if you feel you have provided them with a good service.
7) Clear instructions
It is important, again as part of the trust-building exercise as well as to ensure you convert as many visitors to customers as possible, to ensure full and detailed instructions are available.
These should include:
- Terms and Conditions
- Shipping Details and Price
- How to Purchase/Order
- Payment Methods offered
- Guarantee/Warranty Offered
Don’t hide the shipping cost until the customer is about to checkout, they want to know up front what they are going to be asked to pay. Also don’t produce any hidden costs at checkout process, be up front and honest with your customer.
We always find it’s best to show what payment methods you accept, and display some sort of ‘Secure Payment’ logo or emblem prominently on your web site.
9) Customer Feedback
Encourage customer feedback and provide some simple methods of doing so for your web site visitors. Either have this as a Contact Form, or encourage them to drop you an email or phone call with their feedback. Customers want to know that their opinion matters, and place great trust in those small businesses who ask for it and act upon it.
Encourage potential customers to ask questions, and respond to their queries in a timely fashion. Nobody wants to contact a company through their web site contact form and then wait days for a response.
If you can do so, have an ‘Ask a Question about this Product’ option on your product pages, for eCommerce sites.
10) Personalisation of your site
This also sets you apart from the larger companies, as they do not always take the time to respond and communicate with their customers.
Ways to personalise your site can include:
- Thank You notes inside deliveries
- Thank You emails upon order completion
- Special Offers or Coupons
- Incentives for repeat purchasing
- Tips/Advice on subjects relating to your business (eg Computing Tips for an IT firm, Dog Grooming advice for a Pet-related web site, etc)
- A blog, with up-to-date company news & case studies of clients.
- Pictures. If you do something well, take some images & start a gallery page. Nothing sells you better than a visual of your work.