By now, I think it is safe to assume that most of our blog readers have their own website, or work for a company with a website. So with 2011 coming to an end, it is the perfect time to start thinking about what you can do to improve your current online offering – it can be the perfect way to start the New Year.
1. Test your site
It constantly amazes me how many sites have broken functionality. It only takes a few minutes to go through a site to test forms, check links and ensure all navigation features are working. Yet it seems so many people don’t bother. Websites aren’t something that you can ‘set and forget’. They take ongoing maintenance if you want to be successful. Obviously in the perfect world, nothing would ever break. But even if everything is functioning as it should, there are still improvements that can be made. Which takes me to my second point…
2. Remember your customers
It’s important that you love your site and find it easy to use, but it is even more important that your target market does as well. When developing a site, your target market should always be kept in mind to ensure they have a positive user experience. You should also be undertaking regular website audits to ensure that this user experience remains positive. You often see sites that were great to begin with, but with content additions, changes in product offers or new marketing campaigns, they have become messy and confusing for customers. Spend some time going through your site from the perspective of your customer and see if any changes need to be made.
3. Update content
While new content additions can ruin user experience if the site architecture is not taken into consideration, adding new content and updating current content is a great way to freshen things up. People will be less inclined to continually visit a site that never changes, so updates give them something to come back for. Add a ‘specials’ or ‘news’ section, create content around any new products or services you have or just improve the content you already have. Not only will this help with repeat visitors to your site, but can assist with SEO as well. Remember, content really is king.
4. Get social and do it well
Ok, so this point might not improve your actual site, but it can improve your overall online presence. Social media can be a great way to connect with your customers, get your brand messaging across and increase traffic to your site. However, it can also damage your brand if done incorrectly, and in some cases turn into a total PR nightmare (hello Qantas…).
So before you engage in this step, just take a moment to look at how your target market behaves online and develop a strategy to relate to that. There is nothing worse than clicking through to a company’s Facebook page to see they only have 4 ‘fans’ and haven’t done any updates for six months. Facebook and Twitter are always the safe options when it comes to social, and can provide a great way to communicate with your customers on a more informal level.
5. Have transparency
This last point may seem a little dull, but I think it is so so so important, especially if you have an online store. For a standard website, customers still need to be able to see where you are based, how to get in contact, and information regarding your company. Don’t hide this information away, as it can make people lose faith in your brand. I never trust a company that doesn’t have a phone number and address that can be easily found!
For ecommerce stores, the need for transparency is even greater. What are your shipping costs and delivery times? What payment gateway do you use? Is it secure? What’s your refund policy? Do you have a sizing chart? Answers to all of these questions should be obvious to customers, and should be obvious before they need to start looking for them. Have a shipping calculator? Well, don’t wait until the payment page to show it to customers. Put a link to it on the product page.
Being transparent in all of your policies and processes may seem like overkill, but it helps to develop your customer’s trust which in turn means repeat visitors, more enquiries and higher sales. And that is what we are all after, right?