Is your website just a tired old brochure?

Websites are funny things really. Everyone has one but they are far from made equally.

As a commissioner of sites and a designer/builder too, I'm often amazed by the wide variety of sites out there and, frankly, the poor quality of many of them.

One issue I perceive is that many companies have a site simply because they have to. Not enough thought is given to how people will actually use the site. In some cases a 'brochure site' is perfectly adequate as a shop window for your business. But, just like the printed equivalent, a brochure site is liable to go out of date very quickly if not maintained properly.

Plus, these days, there are few businesses that can get away with a static site as expectations are so much higher. So what can you do to ensure your site does what it needs to?

Oh, and before you start? Be brutally honest with yourself. Do you like your site? Be brave about picking holes in it, because that's what your customers will be doing.

You have to begin, as with all marketing, with the customer. Who will use your site and why? What do you expect them to do after viewing the site? Will they buy direct from the site or do you just need to showcase in order to tempt them to contact you? Whatever the answers to these questions, get inside the mind of your customer (or get your web developer to) and ensure that as much as possible you are meeting their expectations.

Once you've figured that out you need to move on to look and feel. How is your corporate identity holding up generally? Does it still reflect your business? Does it speak to your customers? If you're in any doubt, building a new website is a good excuse to have a rethink about your branding. A rebrand is not necessarily the huge or expensive project you might think. Rarely do you need to start from scratch because, if your business is established, you will have created some 'equity' in your brand already: you don't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. A swift refresh may be all you need and then any good web designer can interpret your brand image onto the screen for you.

So you know your customer's expectations and you're happy with your brand image. What's next?

Functionality.

Think of all the ways people need to interact with your site and include as many as you can while keeping the flow and structure of the site simple and clear. Don't be tempted to cram everything onto the homepage as this risks bamboozling your customer and they will quickly become a bounce statistic. (More about bouncing in a minute.)

Consider how they might travel through the site and what might be an ideal journey in order to get the outcome you want. Make that journey as easy and pleasant as possible - don't make them work for it!

A word about social media.

Many sites I've seen have the obligatory links to Facebook etc but some of them are just random generic links to the Facebook site and some are worse: links to defunct Facebook pages! Don't be a social media sheep. While it may be very important for your business, only link social media to your website if you actually use social media and, more importantly, your customers do (there's that C word again!). If you don't think it adds value, leave it off.

Finally, make sure your site is working hard for you. Any good web developer will ensure your site is fully optimised for search (do not pay extra for this by the way, it is standard and really is not rocket science) and will have installed analytics within the site. The data you can get from analytics is gold-dust and will tell you a lot about who uses your site, why they use it and what they do once on it. Making good use of the data in order to continually improve your site is basic good web management.

Oh, the bouncing? That's what happens when someone lands on your site and, whoops, they bounce right off again because the site did not work for them, speak to them or give them what they needed.

To avoid bouncing, and all derivatives thereof, contact us to revamp your online presence.