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This post by Susan Johnston Taylor was originally published on the Freshbooks Blog on July 19, 2016
Nowadays customers expect small businesses-everything from solo practitioners to mom and pop contracting companies-to have an online presence. With free and inexpensive tools available online, you don't need to be a website wizard to set one up.
Despite the relative ease of setting up a website, there are several potential pitfalls that could turn away customers rather than draw them in-by "draw them in," we mean drive business conversions from your mere online presence. Here's a look at several business website faux pas, along with tips on how to fix them.
Some businesses use very technical language or industry jargon to describe themselves and what they do. Avoid this temptation and keep the language as simple and digestible as possible. Instead of saying "We leverage industry-leading, best-in-class pest-mitigation techniques," choose simpler language like "We'll rid your home of ants, cockroaches and other pests." The latter also focuses on the benefits the customer will enjoy: a pest-free home!
It has the Wrong Focus
Your website shouldn't just trumpet your accomplishments and certifications; it should demonstrate how you can help your potential customers. Rather than focusing on your extensive list of credentials, focus on the people-aspect of your business.
What are their pain points? What unique benefits can you offer that will make their lives easier or better? How can you speak their language and show that you understand their needs?
It's Missing a Call-to-Action
Don't make site visitors guess what they should do next; give them clear instructions with an obvious call to action button or hyperlinked text. For instance, encourage them to download your free ebook, book a free consultation or contact you for more information. Without these prompts, your potential customers won't be prompted to move forward with your services, and you won't get the business conversions you're looking for.
It's Not Mobile-Friendly
The number of global mobile users now surpasses the number of desktop users, according to comScore. If your website isn't mobile-friendly, you could be missing out on potential business. If you have animation, large images that contain text or a site navigation that isn't responsive on mobile phones and tablets, that can frustrate potential customers. Particularly in today's mobile-driven world, you should have a mobile-first approach when building your website.
It has a Confusing User-Experience
Your site's navigation should make it easy for users to find what they need, whether it's a list of services, business hours, staff bios or contact pages-all within a few intuitive clicks. If it's too hard to contact you, they'll be apt to look elsewhere and you can lose their business.
Consider including a contact page as part of your site's primary navigation and posting your phone number in a prominent place on every single page (the footer of the web page is typically where your traffic will look to for site navigation). If you provide useful and accessible information, it can also reduce the number of phone calls asking for basics like business hours or whether you provide a certain service.
It has Looping Background Music
Websites that start playing music automatically (and non-stop) as soon as you load the page can annoy your customers. They may be browsing your site at work or another place where loud, unexpected music is disruptive. In addition, added features-like music-can lead to slower loading times throughout your website. So instead of using music to set the mood, visually capture your audience instead. Choose images, fonts and colors to illustrate your desired brand and vibe.
It has Poor Image Quality
Blurry or pixelated images scream amateur hour. Smartphone cameras have come a long way, but if you still can't get high enough resolution images, consider investing the money in professional photography or at least locating some royalty-free stock images for your site. And if you decide to take your own photography, images taken on a smartphone are typically suitable enough for website quality.
It has a Hard-to-Read Typeface
You want your site's text to be readable on desktop or mobile so visitors can easily gather the information they need. Dark text on a light background is generally easiest to read, while light text on a dark background can prove trickier. Colors can display differently on varying devices depending on their screen settings, so aim for contrast. Different shades of the same color (for instance, a light pink background with darker pink text) may not read as well. If your traffic is distracted by your font style and color from the get-go, they may not even give your services a chance.
It's Visually Cluttered
Big blocks of text and lots of images can overwhelm website visitors and detract them from your content. Use subheadings and bullet points as appropriate to make your text more readable and easy-to-follow. Also, include white space to give your text and images room to breathe. White space around your call-to-actions can also help them stand out. Here are instructions on finding your site's text/HTML ratio.
It has an Outdated Template
Make sure you update your website on a regular basis. If customers come to your site in April and you still have a banner ad for a holiday sale, it doesn't leave the best first impression. Make a more positive impression by regularly updating your website and removing any time-sensitive promotions as appropriate.
Also, keep an eye out for broken links. If you link to a vendor who goes out of business or you change the navigation on your own site, ensure you remove old links so that visitors won't be redirected to a 404 page.
By keeping your target customers' needs in mind and providing a good online user experience, your website will make a strong impression for your business and will allow customers to look up your information anytime, anywhere.
About the Author: Freelance journalist Susan Johnston Taylor covers entrepreneurship, small business and lifestyle for publications including The Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur and FastCompany.com. Follow her on Twitter@UrbanMuseWriter.