“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” We’ve all heard that saying multiple times in our lives, but there’s no better situation to apply it to than web re-design. Too often web developers will leap into a design change for all the wrong reasons and will loose regular customers and bookmark visitors because of it. Re-designing simply for the sake of making a change is always the wrong reason. The best thing to do when you are considering a re-design or even a major format change to your website is to spend some time assessing your site, taking stock of what you’ve got and making a list of what you want to get out of the changes. Many times, once you look at the big picture, you will realize that your site only needs minor changes – if any.
Assessing your entire site may seem overwhelming at first and of course there are professional consultants out there that you could hire to give you their two-cents on the direction that you and your site should take, but sometimes it’s best to give it a go on your own first. There are 5 specific areas of assessment that should be your main focus – these should help make the job a bit easier and less daunting from the onset. Take a quick overview of the following main points, make some notes for yourself on how your site measures up and then, if you want to dig deeper, take a harder look and do an expanded evaluation of your site’s performance and design.
THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME?
Start with the home page – think of it as the front foyer or entryway of your website. At first glance do your visitors know what your site is all about, what its purpose is and what you are offering in the way of information, resources, products or services? Is it clean and easy to read – is your focus clear and informative?
View your site with a first-time visitor in mind or better yet, get a friend or family member who hasn’t seen your site to view it with you side-by-side. Ask them questions such as “what does this site say to you?” or “how does this page make you feel?” and “do you know what this website is about or selling?”
The first impression that visitors get will greatly influence their comfort-level which in turn, effects their ultimate desire to make a purchase, join your membership or even sign-up for a free newsletter or feed. Make sure that first impression is a good one and that you are very clear on what it is that you are offering and what is available. Keep it simple and direct – to the point and of course interesting and enticing. That’s a lot to put on one little web page but they don’t call it the “Home Page” with a capital “H” for no reason!
BUT WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME?
Web site visitors are very ME-focused. When they are checking out a site it’s all about them. What do THEY want, what do THEY need, what can THEY get out of making a purchase or signing up for a membership – and that’s exactly as it should be. After all, your job as web developer is to design a site that meets the wants, needs and desires of your targeted traffic in order to ultimately gain their confidence and make that sale. It should be all about them.
In addition to making what your site has to offer very clear you also need to make the “value” of your site very clear as well. Value as in what they will get out of book-marking your site or the advantages to entering their e-mail address or other contact information for free content or membership information. Value also as in what they can expect once they MAKE a purchase, once they JOIN your website – once they become a part of it all.
When you shop for things – either for your business, home or family – you assess the product, store or service based upon its value as well as for its reputation and initial appeal. Your site’s visitors do the same thing, so when you assess the performance of your overall website you need to keep this in mind as well.
WILL THEY NEED BOTH HANDS AND A FLASHLIGHT?
How easy is it to navigate your website? Do you offer an easy-to-follow menu or navigation bar – or do your visitors need to click on virtually everything in order to find a specific offering, section or area of your website?
Once again, getting a friend or family member who hasn’t viewed your site to take a look with “fresh” eyes is a great way to evaluate your site’s navigational qualities. Without guiding them through the site watch where they click, how they navigate certain areas – even consider giving them a challenge like “see if you can find ___” and see how quickly they are able to locate a specific item or page. Poor navigation is one of the top reasons why you SHOULD consider a re-design or at least attempt to improve upon your navigational elements.
DOES YOUR TEXT MAKE SENSE?
Take the time to read through all of your site’s text – does it make sense? How is the spelling, the grammar and the readability of the font? You might be surprised to discover that there are a lot of errors and text that might not be as effective as it could be.
Web developers need to give much more consideration and respect to text than they have in the past – it’s as much of an essential part of your site design as the colors you choose, the images you display and the content that you make available. Quit thinking about text as “filler” and give it the front stage respect that it deserves.
ARE YOU LISTED – AND LISTED WELL?
How do you do in the engines? You don’t have to spend a wad of cash on search engine optimization or use submit-services these days. In fact, many believe that straight-forward, content-rich web signs and letting the engines find you through web links is the most effective way to get a solid, lasting listing on even the most popular engines on the ‘Net.
Do a search for your site’s name, related topics and keywords – even try searching for your dot-com at Google and view the results given. The number of sites that list you, how many pages from your site are listed within the engine, pages that contain your dot-com in them and compare your site to the “similar results” listed with your direct competitors. This is some excellent FREE assessment data that you can use in a number of ways to improve your site.
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