As the saying goes, first impressions are everything. And your website is no exception, as it’s often the first impression potential customers have of your business. Thoughts about a business, or anything, are also very difficult to change once those first impressions are formed.
When you don’t have a positive first experience, chances are you will never go back. After all, there are over 1.8 billion websites currently available online. So you have other options when it comes to fulfilling your needs.
What can you do to create the right first impression on your site so you don’t lose leads and customers? To answer this million-dollar question, we turned to Jamie Gyerman, associate director of optimization for akhia communications in Hudson, Ohio. In her presentation of COSE’s most recent WebEd Series webinar, Jamie, who oversees akhia’s digital team, put a spotlight on the three aspects of a website: navigation, design and content.
The most important part of any website is that it’s easy to use, so the navigation and paths to accessing what you are looking for are crucial.
Jamie shared two statistics when it comes to navigation. First, 40% of people are going to abandon your site if it takes more than three seconds to load. Second, 48% of people who arrive at a site that isn’t mobile friendly take it as a sign that you are careless.
Poor navigation says many negative things about your site, and therefore your business, including that:
- You don’t value your potential customers’ time;
- You don’t understand your audience’s pain points;
- You’re unwilling to pay for faster website hosting; and
- You don’t get the importance of mobile responsiveness and are out of touch with your customers. You are outdated.
When potential customers walk away with a negative experience like this, the message they receive is that you just don’t care about your customers.
Your website navigation should send positive messages to your audience, including that:
- You respect their time and you’re going to get them the information they need quickly;
- You know how to address their pain points and have mapped out a simple way to address those pain points;
- You are willing to invest in your customers because you care about their needs; and
- You take time to understand your customers and go to great lengths to meet their needs.
The takeaway from these messages is that you care about the people navigating your website.
If you’re having some trouble providing user-friendly navigation on your site, here are four things you can do:
Navigation Tip No. 1: Conduct a website speed analysis. You can go to a site like gtmetrix.com to help you assess how quickly it takes your website to load. Plug in the URL for your site and it will tell you how much the load time is for your site. Jamie suggests that you should get your load time below three seconds.
Navigation Tip No. 2: Revisit your site map. The goal here is to make sure your site map addresses your customers’ needs, not just yours. Take a close look at your analytics to see how people are navigating through your site.
Navigation Tip No. 3: Keep your navigation simple. People want to have their questions answered or needs met quickly and easily. Don’t make them have to jump through hoops to get there or spend too much time clicking around.
Navigation Tip No. 4: Leverage google analytics. It benefits you to find out what devices people are using to access your site. Look at the analytics for the different pages within your site and how they go from one page to the next. Make sure you optimize the experience for each of the different users coming to your site.
Every design aspect that goes into your website must be strategically selected and placed. 46% of people say a website’s design is the number one criterion for discerning the credibility of a company.
Think about your company’s designs across all marketing efforts—they should be consistent. Because your website URL will appear on all ads, literature, and other items, the look and feel of those pieces should be in align with your identity. Don’t leave people feeling disconnected.
Poor website design can tell people that:
- You don’t care about how you look;
- You don’t spend money to improve your business; and
- You aren’t aware of or connect to the rest of your organization.
So again, the overall message is that you don’t care about your customers.
The design of your website should make potential customers feel that:
- First impressions are important to you;
- You take pride in what you do;
- You care about the small stuff and are willing to invest in your business; and
- You are innovative and current.
Doing so will of course send the positive message that you care about your customers.
What can you do if you aren’t quite there yet with the design of your site? Here are four tips to consider:
Design Tip No. 1: Stay on top of trends. Digital marketing changes so often and can be expensive. You do not have to keep up with each tiny change, but you do need to stay current and know the best way to communicate your message in a visual way that’s going to be relevant to users.
Design Tip No. 2: Conduct audience research. You need to find out what resonates with the people coming to your site. You should also conduct research on your competitors. Keep in mind, though, that while you do want to stand out among your competitors, you don’t want to be too far off from what they are doing either.
Design Tip No. 3: Pay attention to details. Do you know what your website looks like on a desktop versus on a tablet or phone? You must test your site across multiple devices.
Design Tip No. 4: Represent your brand consistently. Take a close look at all of your marketing outlets and different pieces and make sure your audience would be able to identify all of them as being part of your business.
Customers are researching solutions to their needs online and connecting to your brand based on search results. Since they are doing their own research in this digital movement, the power lies with the customers. And, as Jamie noted, prospects are already 57% on their way to a decision before they connect with your sales team.
Poor content can give the impression that your company:
- Doesn’t have a good sense of its own identity and what it can do for customers;
- Lacks focus and purpose; and
- Is no different than its competitors.
Again, what you’re really saying is that you don’t care about your customers.
Your website content should let customers know that you care about them.
Here are three tips that you can follow if you’re not there yet with your content:
Content Tip No. 1: Clearly communicate who you are. What’s one thing you want your customers to know about you or walk away with? Make sure you clearly define who you are.
Content Tip No. 2: Identify what makes you stand out. Make sure you highlight the differences between you and your competition throughout your site.
Content Tip No. 3: Showcase testimonials. Satisfied customers can advocate on your behalf, which will go a long way with potential customers.
View Gyerman's full presentation below: