Updated: Jan 29, 2021
When it comes a website, you don't just slap a logo on a page that has a custom URL. You need to fuse design with purpose and flawless functionality. You not only need to create something beautiful that will grab your visitors attention, but make sure there are no broken links. Sure you need lot's of content, but not just any content. It needs to be of value to the consumer, distilled down to its main purpose and not full of fluff. The navigation needs to make sense so that you drive sales with calls to action - all while making sure it looks uniform across all devices.
Great websites have a few key ingredients:
1. Look professional through and through
I've seen it over and over again, business owners first reach out to me, I go through the trouble of putting together a quote just to have them either never get back to me or say it's too expensive and they are going to do it themselves.
"How hard can it be, it looks like you just drag and drop?"
Yes, true, you drag and drop. What 95% of them don't know is how to actually make a website that is aesthetically pleasing to the eye. What they also don't know, and are usually too stubborn to care about, is that one of Google's algorithms to determine where you pop up in search results is the user experience, a.k.a. how aesthetically pleasing to the eye it is.
But let me ask you this, when you go to a shitty looking website with blurry or pixelated photos do you stay there long? You know, bounce rate (how quickly visitors come to and then leave away from your site) also determines your ranking in search results. When you go to a shitty looking website, do you feel like your credit card info is safe and secure enough to spend money on it? Or would you rather leave, and go to one that does? I bet whatever website you do end up spending your money on does look good.
The point is, you are investing your time, energy and money into this website - if you insist on doing it yourself, do your homework! Take the time to look at your competitors websites, do research on what the most recent trends are, and don't think that you know it all! Be open minded and willing to be the student, not the teacher. You may know your industry but most likely you don't have a clue what you're doing when it comes to this. Just saying.
2. Have a beautiful design
Right off the bat, you know what isn't beautiful? When your website looks like it was made in the 90's. Or even the 2000's for that matter! While we're on the topic, try to give it a makeover at least once a year. Me, personally, I am always making small updates almost every month that add up to a whole new look over time. I see something fresh in the industry that inspires me and I like to sprinkle a little bit of that style onto my site and make it my own.
There are some key things to remember:
Simplicity vs Clutter
Simplicity goes a long way, the more you add clutter the more your visitor is distracted, which ultimately leads to confusion. And as I always say, "If you confuse 'em, you lose 'em".
Look at this fucking website, HOLY SHIT! This is the definition of a cluster fuck. My mind goes off into another dimension when I look at this. My eyes are going in every direction. It just looks like a giant hot mess of shit that I want no part of, immediately makes me "Whoops! Never mind..." and want to leave.
The sad thing is I've seen this more times than I'd like to remember. I get it, business owners have a lot going on, a lot on their minds. And this is definitely like peeking into this person's mind. This right here is the perfect example of when a business owner needs to back off and let someone who knows what they are doing do it for them. There's no hope that they would ever be able to do a site themselves. Yikes.
Dark vs Light
Dark web designs can have an elegant and creative appeal, don't get me wrong. They are also ideal for many types of businesses. However, they are not suitable for every website and should be used only when appropriate.
In spite of the striking visual impact that some dark designs can have, many designers don’t know how to effectively pull them off without turning off the visitor. With dark design comes less readability, and ultimately less appeal for most readers, leading to less opportunity for conventional design elements. What does that mean for you? Less opportunity for your bottom line.
I hate to do this, but it needs to be done. Here is a screen shot of a website I built for a small business owner just starting out. Originally, the background had a textured background with white overlay blended together, making a very light grey textured look. When I build a website for someone their satisfaction is top priority, so I constantly keep asking along the way if they like my work or want something changed. This person never once even mentioned having a black background to me. Maybe if they had, we could have strategized on a look that could work, at least had that conversation.
But that never happened. I went back to take a peek at the site a month later (as I always do). Usually I am just looking for any broken links and it's more of a check-up than anything. I want to know everything I did turned out perfect. To my surprise, this person made some awful changes. I was pretty shocked.
Changing the colors of the website was a huge mistake. Look at the purple over the black, having trouble reading it? Squinting your eyes a bit? This is detrimental to the user experience, a huge "no-no". See how one of the models is wearing black, and that it gets lost into the page? It almost makes you not understand what you are looking at. And what is one of the most important rules to remember?
"If you confuse 'em, you lose 'em"
Granted, the products on this page can still sell, but what do you think Google will have to say (and they will look) about this site? This will get a big thumbs down in regard to user experience and push this website further down on the list in search engine results. You could sell the product once someone arrives to the site, but unless you plan to only sell to your friends and family, you're screwing yourself in this situation because almost no one will ever find this website organically.
Organization and Neatness
Me, I am a neat freak anyway so this one comes naturally for me. But for anyone else, especially those who live in clutter, you better check yourself before you wreck yourself. Navigation is everything, so not only is a great design aesthetically pleasing to the eye but absolutely crucial for your navigation.
In today's day and age attention spans probably grow shorter by the day, especially in out youth (your future customers). And it is so simple, if your customer cannot find what the are looking for right away they are going to get distracted by a notification on their iPhone or by a text from their friend to watch some TikTok video. Next thing you know, you were right up to the edge of making a sale but then suddenly didn't cross the line from "just looking" to finalizing an actual transaction.
You fucked it up, and now you lost the sale. Most likely for good. Keep in mind - apps like Facebook, Instagram, Amazon, etc. are all probably open on their device at that moment and tracking everything they do. Now, suddenly they are going to start seeing ads for products that match the one you sell. Most likely leading them to Amazon, where it will probably be cheaper, and as easy to buy as clicking one little button that says "Buy Now".
That's it! The sale is lost to Amazon once again through retargeting ads that you stood no chance against. Feel like an asshole now? If you make a website like this you got what was coming to you and you should!
3. Have great content that loads reasonably fast
Don't confuse a bunch of pictures and videos for great content. Pretty simple, right? Well not for some. First of all, great content should be something that brings value to your visitors (and potential customers). Sure, people appreciate a good photo and especially a useful video. But people can just as easily appreciate the same value in written form, through written content.
Another thing (and I see this all the time) is going way unnecessarily overboard on the images where it is total overkill. Look at this website for example, every link in the menu is a fucking image rather than some simple text. Such a rookie mistake. If you want to waste valuable load time on something so useless, your website will suffer. And man, this shit is so 90's! Stop yourself immediately if you find yourself doing this.
Here again, but in a different form. Image overload. This is the definition of overkill. This person used images to replace the h1 and h2 headings. Not only does this take longer to load and look obnoxious, but you can also kiss your SEO goodbye because now Google doesn't have a clear understanding of what this page is about.
And now this website. See all of those flags? This could have been fixed but the person making this site doesn't know any better. There are 14 flags on this page. They are all individual images. And if you scroll down the whole page there must be like 50 images on this page.
In this case, simply in regards to the flags (because all in all the rest of this page can't be salvaged and should be done over from scratch). You could easily just type the word for the country, and leave the image of the flag for when you arrive to the page about each country. Just put the flag there instead.
Or, if you insist on having the flags on display, put them all together on one page, organized in a row or column, take a screen shot of them together so it's all in one image. Then take that image and upload it, setting up links of the name of each country accordingly. I would give you the link to this page so you can bask in it's awfulness but I'm afraid if the person who made it were to find out they might murder me in my sleep. Seriously, this site is crazy.
Strategic navigation pointing to a "call to action"
Seriously, what is the entire point of your website being made in the first place? To make money! So learn this phrase well... "Call To Action".
The Wikipedia definition of call to action is "a marketing term for any device designed to prompt an immediate response or encourage an immediate sale. A CTA most often refers to the use of words or phrases that can be incorporated into sales scripts, advertising messages, or web pages, which compel an audience to act in a specific way."
If you want to actually make sales from your website then this strategy is a must. And if you're intimidated, don't be! It's pretty easy. But you have to keep in mind all the things I have already explain to you in this blog in order to do your CTA right.
To summarize this, a CTA in regards to your web page will be simple:
Keep your website clean, clutter free and nice to look at so the user can easily navigate it and will stick around long enough to read or better yet, buy something.
Make sure your written content is persuasive and really talking up the product. It's a bit manipulative but hey, the whole point is to sell that shit!
Use the first two bullet points together to point to a "Buy Now" or "Order Now" button.
It's really that straight forward.
Have on-site SEO implementation
This has to be, by far, the most over looked and under appreciated aspect of web design that I ever come across. And what's shameful is I see it on a regular basis. I send quotes to potential clients and in the list of work I will perform for them, they almost always point out the section about on-site SEO and want it taken out. In most cases they are reasonable people who understand it's important but want to save money. In some cases they actually think I am trying to pull some kind of fast one on them, like I'm trying to scam them. Little do they know, they are only playing themselves.
And it's sad. But I can't force someone to pay for something they don't want. I try to explain to them how important it is, and that I am looking out for them. But 9 times out of 10 they just don't care. So I then proceed to build a beautiful website that will only be seen by their friends and family. It's really that simple. They aren't left with a website that will make them money, but more of a trophy to show off to those close to them. Basically a token of their online business idea that might as well be an expensive hobby.
The funniest part, is I will see them spin their wheels, throwing away money left and right to Facebook ads that get them nowhere. Sure, you might get some sales because of those ads, but how much did you spend to make those sales? Here's a question, are you making a profit?
I'll hear a client then say "but look at my cost per click, it's so low!"... Okay? That's a positive thing, sure. But what is the point if those clicks don't lead to conversions? If you're spending $500 a month on Facebook Ads to bring in $300 in sales, what good is that doing for you? If you even spend $500 to make $500, guess what's happening? You're doing all the work while Facebook rakes in all of your hard earned money. Sure, more people know about you product... but only for the time being. Once you stop paying for those ads you name and brand fall off the face of the internet - like that!
What is your long term strategy? You are in this for the long run, aren't you? If there is anything I've ever learned the hard way in business, it is that you have to be patient. Trying to rush your way through things almost always blows up in your face.
Now before you sign up and create an account so you can attack me... I know. Yes, you will be spending money on SEO as well. And to those less experienced, it may seem like you are not making a profit either... at first. Remember, this is a business. Most businesses don't blow up over night from a Facebook ad with good CTR. And usually you aren't only investing time for a business to take off, it also takes some money.
So chill out and be patient! It's not like you aren't going to have a billion other things to do. Take it from me. I have been through it multiple times. I have thrown away thousands of dollars to FB and Instagram ads. I'm not saying there aren't businesses who are successful with PPC ads, but usually the successful ones are those with huge budgets, the kind thats usually out of your league if you're a small business starting out. And most likely those companies who have big money to spend on PPC ads are also running an SEO campaign.
And I also get that SEO can get expensive, especially when you are trying to run a nationwide or global campaign. But if you start with local SEO, you can get the ball rolling and slowly build your way up.
But here is my advice, for those who have next to no marketing budget... Implement On-site SEO and start your SMM.
There are two parts to an SEO campaign. On-site SEO and Off-site SEO. On-site is where it starts and should be the bare minimum of your SEO efforts. Off-site can be done as you begin to grow and have money to spend on marketing. But let me repeat, at the bare minimum you should implement On-site SEO into your website if you ever want it to see the light of day (beyond your friends and family).
What can you do in the meantime to help build an online presence and get some glimmer of hope that people outside your circle begin to notice your website? Social Media Marketing, otherwise known as SMM.
For now, if you are just a cockroach in the world of business - get your ass on Social Media and start making business pages followed by lots of posts! But to explain this would take a whole other blog article in itself to explain to you, so I think I will save it for the next one. Until then, SMM is going to be your strategy moving forward until you can step up your game and start investing into SEO.
"Stay Calm and Build On!"
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Article By: Ian Meyer - Entrepreneur and Creator of Business Builders Club
Ian has been infected entrepreneurial spirit since he was a child, from small time hustles like mowing the neighbors lawn to selling drugs as a teen. In his 30's he went on to run what would become the #1 Tour in Boston, MA. As a way to pivot during COVID19, he is working on multiple projects trying to make a path to the next chapter of his life.