Today’s technology provides a great number of conveniences that have changed the way everyday tasks are completed.  For example, twenty years ago, if you needed to find the phone number or any other information about a business, you opened up the yellow pages, or perhaps you splurged and called 411 to get what you needed.

As you know, all that has changed.  The first place most people go when they need information about a business is the internet.  You’ve probably done it hundreds of times: Google the name of the business, scan the first couple of results, and click on the one that appears to be the business’s official site.  If designed well, you are quickly able to find it from that Google search, find contact info, business hours, product info, testimonials, etc.

Because of the way consumers look for businesses today, having an effective web presence is essential. Here are some tips for improving your website so customers can easily find what they are looking for.

  • Keep it simple.  A site that is uncluttered is much easier to navigate and takes less time to load, especially for users accessing it from a mobile device.  Evaluate your current content and get rid of anything that isn’t absolutely essential.  Keep your calls to action simple, based on your goals. You should even also simplify the font used to make sure it’s legible and appropriate.  There’s nothing worse than having to click through an untidy site that is chock full of needless html coding or flash animation, or whose menus are not easily found.  Tip:  Identify five business sites that you find easy and pleasant to use, and model your own after the qualities that you feel are the most user-friendly.
  • Use call to action buttons to your advantage.  Call to action buttons (Submit Order, Start Download, Add to Cart, etc.) are designed to get the user to act on something, so they should definitely stand out.  Make the buttons larger than the font on the rest of the page, and use a bright color like orange to differentiate them from other text.  Remember that your call to action buttons should “command attention without overwhelming your design.” Source
  • Provide testimonials with photos.  Any business can say good things about itself, and consumers are often skeptical.  That’s why testimonials are so important.  Visitors to your site want to know how real people felt about their experiences with you.  Including photos with your testimonials will make them even more relatable and real to your potential customers.
  • Keep it updated.  All hyperlinks should be functional and relevant, any online ordering system should contain current products and pricing, contact information should be accurate, etc.  Set yourself monthly reminders to visit your own site as if you were a first time viewer.  Click around the entire site, testing out links and reading any copy.  If something is out of date, fix it immediately.
  • Include a description of your business.  You might have an “About” page that includes a mission statement and a brief description of the products/services you offer.  Be smart about how the description is worded, as it will affect your SEO (search engine optimization).  Remember how most people’s first step is usually a Google search?  You can improve your website’s visibility if you use key words that someone might use in a search. For instance, if you sell all-natural cleaning products, you should include words such as: green, chemical-free, environmentally-friendly, and organic.  Such terms are most likely to be used in a search, and you want your site to pop up in the first page or two of results.  There is no shortage of resources for improving your SEO, such as SEOmoz for those just getting started.
  • Create an interesting “About” page.  This portion of your site should be interesting and personable.  Do this by making the copy easy to understand and written in your own unique style that feels professional, yet conversational.  Also, be sure to include a call to action button on this page like “Learn More” (links to more specific product information) or “See How It Works” (links to a video demonstrating the product).
  • Include a blog. A blog serves the purpose of providing answers that potential customers may be searching for, while also providing the fresh content that Google loves when determining the order in which it displays search results. Write a blog at least 2-3 times per week that provides content related to what you have to offer, without being an ad. For example, if you sell jewelry, you might write about current fashion trends and how to wear jewelry with different outfits. The blog gives visitors a reason to keep coming back to your site, and to tell their friends about it.

A site that is user-friendly and full of valuable information can be a major asset to your business.  Use your own experiences with both effective and ineffective sites to decide how you want yours to look.  What other tips do you have for improving your site?  Please share your ideas below!