One of the more common questions we get asked by clients is how to improve their website. Sometimes, it’s clear that the website has become dated and needs to be refreshed.
Other times, the website has already been refreshed and it’s a bit trickier to figure out what needs to be improved. Some of the more common issues we’re seeing tend to be associated with sites being built by people inexperienced with website best practices. For example:
- Sites that were built by graphic designers
- Sites built by those with a more technical background
- Sites built by those unfamiliar with WordPress
Today, simply having a visually appealing website isn’t enough. A website needs to be easy to navigate, it has to be fast, and it has to provide a positive user experience.
We’ve compiled a list of 5 website mistakes that could be costing you customers. We’ve also included suggestions on how to address the issues.
5 Costly Website Mistakes
1. Too Many Menu Items
It’s easy to understand the decision to put as many items as possible in the site’s top menu. Why should you have to prioritize one service offering over another?
Research has shown that users can feel overwhelmed when there are too many options to choose from. In his book, The Paradox of Choice – Why Less Is More, American psychologist Barry Schwartz argues that eliminating consumer choices can greatly reduce anxiety for shoppers.
When faced with too many options, people can sometimes skip making a choice altogether. In the digital space, this can mean abandoning their shopping cart, or leaving your website altogether.
This theory was tested by the now well-known Jam experiment.
On one day, shoppers at an upscale food market saw a display table with 24 varieties of gourmet jam. Those who sampled the spreads received a coupon for $1 off any jam. On another day, shoppers saw a similar table, except that only six varieties of the jam were on display. The large display attracted more interest than the small one. But when the time came to purchase, people who saw the large display were one-tenth as likely to buy as people who saw the small display.
If you have more than seven or eight choices in your main menu, you may be discouraging your site’s visitors from clicking on any of them.
What to do instead
Limit your main menu to five options. If you have many service or product offerings, group them in a way that is intuitive and easy to understand. Use drop-down menus to showcase the different options available.
Be sure to keep in mind that drop-downs should also be kept concise; too many options there will also overwhelm users prevent them from taking any action.
Don’t forget about your site’s footer. Web users today are savvy enough to look for information in the footer if they can’t find it anywhere else on the site. If there are items that don’t naturally fit in your top menu, highlight them in your footer.
Remember, nothing on a website is ever set in stone. If you update your menu and still aren’t seeing results, continue to tweak.'If your beautiful website isn’t bringing in traffic and leads, one of the following may be the reason.'Click To Tweet
2. No Clear User Journey
In order to convert website visitors into leads, your site needs to have a clear path for the user to take. It is no longer enough to drive people to your home page and hope that they figure out where to find information about your products and services.
When thinking about your site’s layout and content, think about how to best get your visitors from the starting point to the end point. What are you hoping visitors do on your website? Are you hoping they’ll contact you? Would you like them to sign up for your newsletter? Or would you rather they follow you on social media?
Make it as easy as possible for a user to navigate from one page to another. Use clear calls to action on buttons. Avoid using generic phrases like “read more” or “learn more” for your links. Instead, be clear on where users will be taken when they click on something.
Remember, your website is more than just a brochure. You can use it to highlight your experience and offerings. You can also use it to collect leads to help your business grow.
What to do instead
Before deciding on how to lay out your site’s pages and content, put yourself in a customer’s shoes. The structure you’ve put together makes sense to you, but will it make sense to a customer?
One way to identify how your visitors are navigating through your site is to set up Goals in Google Analytics. Doing this allows you to set a starting page for your path and then you can add each page you think your users will visit on their way to conversion. For example, if your goal is to drive sales of a particular product, the path you’d set up in Analytics could look like this:
Home page > Product Page > Cart Page > Check out page > Thank you page
Once this is set-up in Google Analytics, you can easily see at a glance the percentage of users who are completing all 5 steps in the process. You can also see where people are dropping off. With that information in hand, you can change your content to try to help users through the path to conversion.
3. Not Having On-Site Search
If a site’s information isn’t structured in a way that makes sense, a user defaults to using the search feature to find the information they need. Online users have come to expect a search option wherever they are online – be it on Facebook, Twitter or the New York Times.Not having on-site search in place can lead to frustration for the user. Frustrated users don't tend to make purchases.Click To Tweet
Users want to be able to find information quickly. Having to scan through menus and various pages is not ideal and can lead to users leaving a site altogether. If they can’t search for the information on your site, they’ll look for it somewhere else.
What to do instead
Most WordPress themes have search functionality built in. Sometimes, it may be that search isn’t enabled out of the box. In that case, have your web person turn on the feature.
If your site’s theme doesn’t have search built-in, consider using a plugin to add the functionality. Alternatively, you can have your site’s theme customized by a developer.
Beyond providing users an easier – and faster – way to find content, having on-site search benefits you, too. With site search enabled, you can track what terms are being searched for in Google Analytics.
This is an amazing way to find out what is top of mind for your site’s visitors. It also helps identify any gaps you may have on your site. For example, if you’re an accountant and you’re seeing that common search terms on your site are related to end-of-year tax preparation, you can use that information to write a blog post about what clients can do to make end-of-year tax preparation less stressful.
That blog post can then be shared on social media and sent in a newsletter. You can feel confident that you’re providing content users want because you have the data from Google Analytics.
4. Site is Slow
Page speed times are crucial to keeping visitors on your site longer. It’s so important that Google has made it a ranking factor in their search algorithm.
Pages should not take longer than 2-3 seconds to load. Anything longer than that and you’re risking visitors leaving your page (or site) altogether. For better or worse, today’s web users are impatient. Expecting them to wait for your site’s beautiful graphics to load is simply asking too much.
One of the more common culprits of slow websites is large images. Having high-resolution images works great in a print portfolio. On a website, however, images need to be resized and compressed so that they load quickly. A good rule of thumb for image sizes is to aim for less than 200 KB.
Another common cause of slowness on sites using WordPress can be attributed to too many plugins being used. With plugins, it’s important to be selective of which ones are installed. You’ll want to choose plugins that aren’t resource heavy.
Research has shown that page speed times can greatly impact a business’ bottom line. 79 percent of people surveyed who were dissatisfied with a website’s performance said they were less likely to return to make a purchase.
What to do instead
For images, you can use free tools like Compressor.io to reduce your images’ file size. You can also use plugins on your site that’ll reduce images as they’re added to the site. As noted above, having too many plugins can also slow your site down.
If you’re not sure which plugins are being used on your site, speak with your web person and ask them to do an audit. Are all of the installed plugins necessary? Can any of them be replaced by a smaller, leaner version?
If you’re using Google Analytics, you can find information on which pages on your site are slow loading. Google also offers their free Page Insights tool so that you can check which pages on your site are slow and what you can do to fix them.
Outside of Google Analytics, it is also good practice to visit your website every now and again. Have a look at different pages. Are they loading quickly? If not, it may be time to make some updates.
5. Limited On-Site SEO Tactics
Not too long ago, we conducted an audit on a website that was absolutely beautiful. It had unique fonts, gorgeous graphics, beautiful images and good content. It had just been redesigned yet it was averaging fewer than 500 sessions per month and very few conversions.
Our audit quickly discovered the key issue – there were little to none SEO best practices in place:
- Page titles weren’t optimized
- Image and file names weren’t optimized
- Page load times were slow
Our client, like many other small business owners, learned the valuable lesson that merely having a beautiful website isn’t enough to draw customers in.
In this particular case, the website had been designed by a graphic designer and then built by someone with a more technical background. In the process of designing and publishing the site, SEO best practices were missed.
What to do instead
There are many resources out there for on-site SEO best practices. If you’re using WordPress, we highly recommend installing the Yoast SEO plugin. It provides insights and recommendations that both technical and non-technical users can follow.
On-site SEO deserves a post (or several) dedicated to it. But if you’re working on having your website created – or updated – be sure to ask about your web person’s knowledge of SEO and how they plan on incorporating it on your site.
Wrapping it Up
Having a website is a must-have for any business. It’s an easy way for a business to showcase their product offerings and illustrate how they can help a customer with their question or problem. With people’s attention spans getting shorter and expectations getting higher, it’s no longer enough to just have a website.
A website needs to engage, inform and make it as easy as possible to convert.
If you’re interested in having your website reviewed, or have questions about anything mentioned in this post, get in touch. You can find Liz on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.