These days, a website is pretty much required. But how do you make sure that your website is actually useful to your customers and your business?
The answer is in providing a great experience to your website audience.
Give your audience what they are looking for.
Your website must provide your audience with the information, products, or services they are looking for.
Your website must be carefully planned to include exactly what is needed, but no more. Knowing your audience will help you understand what they want, and what they don’t.
There are many options available for websites:
pages of information
and much more
However, it is likely that your website only needs a few of these options to meet your user's needs. Adding more than that risks adding unnecessary complexity to your site.
Your website should reflect your brand. It should speak with your voice, communicate your values, and show your vibe. On the other hand, the content and structure of the site should be all about your audience.
As you decide what content will be useful to your audience, you can decide how to structure that content into pages and page sections.
Plan your site to include exactly what your user needs.
As you plan your site, the first decision is what goes at the top of the homepage. If your audience finds this page first, then that’s the first impression of your site.
Users should know immediately what your business or mission is. This gives them a chance to say – yes, this site is where I need to be. This fits me.
For most businesses, the name and logo of your business should be at the top of the page. In this first glimpse into your business, your audience should know who you are and what you do.
This is your first chance to make a connection with your user.
The rest of the website
Other pages and sections can be added as needed. As you add pages and decide how they will be connected, you can use a sitemap to show the structure of your site.
Make sure that any important information is easy to find. You can have a “start here” page for new visitors if that is appropriate for your business.
If you have an e-commerce store, you can show some of your most popular products on the homepage. Make sure your checkout is easy to use. The path to buying your products should be as smooth as possible.
Site navigation should be carefully considered to make sure that users can find what they need in a minimum of clicks. The most important information should be easily accessible.
Ideally, navigation is consistent across all the pages of the website.
Also, a search function on your site can be very helpful to let customers find exactly what they are looking for quickly. Note that a good search function only works well with accurate titles and content.
Remember, as you build each page, that people may find that page first. Make sure they have enough information to keep browsing through your site.
Build a relationship with your audience
You can give your customers a great experience by showing them you want to build a relationship with them. One way to do this is to have a website that is easy to use, follows best practices, and considers the needs of its users.
Your user will be part of an audience that has specific needs. Each user will be at a different place in their relationship. Some are curious visitors, some repeat customers.
Continue the customer journey
You can help each one move further along in their journey by making it easy to take the next step. When you make it easy to subscribe, easy to contact you, or easy to take the next step in working with you, visitors will be more likely to act.
To make it easy to subscribe or contact you, you can place your contact and subscriber forms where they can be easily found. You can include links to helpful information in various places. At the bottom of blog posts or products, you can add related posts or products that might be of interest.
Another way to make sure your website visitors have a good experience is to make it fast. A slow website is an easy way to lose visitors. Especially in rural areas, users may not have high-speed internet. Keeping images small and your page light and fast makes it much easier to use your site.
Use your website to build trust
Your website visitor is on your site because there is a measure of trust for you. That person found your site in a search, heard about it on the radio, saw you on social media, or got your name from a friend.
For whatever reason, they trust you enough to find your site and come visit.
Your job is to use your website to build on that trust.
You want a relationship with that person. You want to turn a curious visitor into a subscriber, a buyer, or even a raving fan.
If your website is consistent with the rest of your business, that builds trust.
Example of how building trust with a website works
Imagine going into a luxury store. When customers enter the store, the service, décor, and the prices all reflect that brand.
What happens, though, when going to the website causes a disconnect? Maybe the website is poorly designed, or doesn’t work well on mobile. Maybe it doesn’t effectively communicate the mission of the business.
Any of these issues on the website can destroy trust.
On the other hand, If the website is easy to use, has the little touches that make the customer feel valued, and shows luxury both visually and in the quality of the site, then it backs up the brand and increases trust.
To build trust, a website needs to provide the same customer service that a customer would expect going into a physical store. Your website gives your customers a preview for what it will be like to work with you.
Follow best practices
Most websites use the https protocol now – security certificates are easily available.
If your business is international, Europe has the GDPR. Disclaimers are required in certain instances. Following these practices helps customers see that you are being a responsible business.
For a store, you can make customers more comfortable buying from your site by having standard payment methods in place. Also, return policies and shipping information let customers know what to expect.
Guarantees and warranties can reduce the risk of buying from your business and can help customers take that chance.
Making your website accessible for users with various challenges shows that you care about your audience.
Plan a website that keeps users coming back
As you visit other websites, think about what keeps you coming back, or what causes you to leave and never go back. You can incorporate these ideas in your own site in order to plan a website that keeps your customers coming back.
With some planning, your website can be valuable to your business because your audience has a stellar experience on your site.
Your website can encourage your customers to move to the next step in their journey with your business when you use these strategies.
Appy is your website partner at i Code Happy. She builds websites and coaches people who DIY their websites but want a little extra help along the way. Making sure your website fits your business and serves your audience is her passion. Well, that, and Rocky Mountain sunsets, and chocolate.