So the patient says, "But Doc, why do you have to operate on my foot? The splinter is in my finger!" Why am I leading off with a punch line? Because it applies to about 80 percent of people who can’t figure out why their website doesn’t “work.” Pretend your website is the patient in my half-a-joke and replace the doctor with a "web guru." There are two main reasons why you’ve gotten surgery on a foot when a finger was the problem: You didn’t correctly explain the symptoms, and there are a lot of quacks out there!
If your product or service is not selling from your website, don't tell a web developer you don't like the colors or that you need more “flying thingies” on the page. Tell him or her that what you’re offering is not selling. Some people consult with their sister-in-law, best friend, and lawn boy before seeking the help of a professional. Or, they guess at the cause of the problem themselves. When they finally consult with a professional, they tell him or her what they want: Use blue not red, make that picture bigger, add a joke of the day. For the right diagnosis, just tell the web developer, “The site’s not selling,” and let him or her figure out why.
In internet marketing, some people may say whatever it takes to sell you on making your site better. Proceed with caution! Before you hire someone to develop, design or "fix" your site, get referrals from people you know who have a site that has yielded results. Ask people you trust for recommendations. Ask the developer questions. If he or she can't take the time to explain every change, find someone who will. You need to understand the suggestions and the reasons for them. My best advice is to avoid being sucked into the cheapest deal you can find, or being fooled by the "we are the best, so we charge the most" designers.
Assess and Evaluate
But before you call in the web guru, you need to ask yourself a few questions:
How does your site stack up against your competition? We'll assume you already have a website. Surf around and take a look at the competitors. How does their look compare to yours? We're not talking about what the site says, just the overall aesthetics. Does yours look as good, or better?
When visitors open your site, do they know what you're selling? Obviously, you know your product or service, but is it plainly visible to visitors? Is the information your visitors are looking for easy to find and understand? Are the calls to action, such as “sign up for the newsletter” or “read the blog” easy to find?
A finely tuned website should immediately identify three things:
1. Who you are
2. What you do or what you are selling
3. How to hire you or buy your product or service
If you can't find that information in the first 10 seconds on your site—fix it!
Your phone number, email address, or contact form should be located on every page of your site no matter what. A good designer will easily find a way to integrate all of those points of contact into your design.
Did you check your ego at the door? Who is your site trying to please? Are you trying to impress yourself or your customers? Too often, websites get hung up on self-importance. While it is important to show your visitors that you’re an expert, the product or service needs to be the focal point.
Common sense is the most valuable tool at your disposal, but be smart enough to know what you don't know. Successful websites don't just appear. Like gardens, they’re properly developed and then cultivated. Building a traffic flow takes a lot of patience and perseverance. Search engines, link exchanges, content sharing, and a lot of social media are how you start the cultivating process. The internet is a game of exponentials—one guy tells three guys who tell four girls—and the next thing you know, you've started building some real traffic.
Developing a successful website is hard work. But once you have a handle on your own goals for the site, you’ll be in a good position to work with your web surgeon.
Tips for a Successful Site
There are three things I tell every prospective client to help them avoid a website that doesn't sell:
1. Have a Clear Understanding of Your Objective: If you don’t know or understand your needs and goals for your website, you can’t explain them to your web developer. Think it through, and if you don’t understand the hows and whys, do some research. Your web developer, regardless of his or her talent or expertise, will be only as effective as your explanation or description.
2. Allow Enough Time to Fully Develop Your Site: You can’t be effective if you just slap web pages together with a “Buy Now” button. Sorry, it just doesn’t work like that. Fully develop your strategy and content before you jump in. Start with your website content checklist. Identify what absolutes you have to have. The five basic pages to every website include:
• Home Page
• About Us
• Past Work
Once you've determined your “must haves,” think about what you can add to more fully detail your business or service. A blog is a great way to keep your site fresh and keep visitors coming back.
Joe Thomas is the founder and owner of Left Brain Digital, a web development company. He’s also an award-winning web designer/developer with more than 18 years of experience in print and web design and development. For more information, visit www.leftbraindigital.com.