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Looking at people’s websites is a big part of what I do for a living. I can almost always spot areas that, if improved upon, will lead to better results (including my own website, believe me…).
But talking to other people about their websites is a touchy business… unless they’ve hired me to perform a website review and asked for my advice, I can’t just approach somebody and say:
“Hey man, I looked at your website! Did you know that if you did XYZ differently you would get so many more customers?”
That would be … awkward.
Is your website a precious thing?
I learned a long time ago that people consider their websites to be precious things — whether you’ve paid a great deal of money to have it designed or you’ve put your blood, sweat and tears into designing your own —it’s hard to look at your website objectively, it’s your baby! You don’t WANT to see flaws, and you wouldn’t mind a bit of praise for all of the hard work you’ve put into it. TRUUUUST me, I get it.
But here’s what I’ve learned working as a designer for 15+ years…
Letting go of ego and seeing things through the eyes of others is the single best way to make sure your site is doing more than just pleasing your own eyeballs.
And it needs to do that. Your website must perform critical, money-making functions for your business, like: establish credibility, make it easy for people to find and understand things, help you get noticed and remembered by the right people, and guide customers on a journey from awareness to action.
You can only know whether it does all of those things if you’re willing to see things from your site visitor’s perspective. And if you realize that it doesn’t, you need to change things up, that’s all.
Newsflash: your website will never be perfect
Another thing I’ve come to believe strongly is that a website is not something you should try to make “perfect” and then sit back and wait for customers to flock to you. It can (and should) be approached as an iterative process (a thing you “do” rather than a think you “have”). Being able to understand your site visitors and make changes is crucial, and that requires first using the right tools so you don’t get bogged down in technical frustration and learning-overwhelm. (These are the tools I recommend to clients and use myself.)Think of your website as something you DO rather than something you HAVE.Click To Tweet
As you get more information (which can only happen once a certain number of people begin interacting with your site) — like traffic stats and user behavior analytics — you can constantly be on the lookout for ways to optimize, and this will become a part of your on-going routine.
Armed with data, and some lessons learned from along the way … you’ll get smarter, your website and online marketing game will get better, and you’ll amplify what’s working and abandon what’s not. This is when marketing starts to gets fun and efficient; you’ll feel empowered and begin to see the gears turn. Pretty soon, the confusion over what you need to be focusing on disappears.
Knowing whether your website is doing what you depend on it to do (e.g. capture leads, close the sale) isn’t just something you can skip over and neglect if you want to have that well-oiled online marketing machine you’re hoping for. So let’s see how you can determine whether it can work even harder for you than it is today.
Related reading: What Your Website Visitors Can Teach You About Marketing Your Online Biz.
Evaluate With A Beginner’s Mind
This is a term Buddhists use to describe the practice of sending your ego on vacation so you can view things as if you’re seeing them for the first time. Like, clearing your mind and going for a walk and experiencing a tree like you’ve never seen a tree before, like an infant would. No pre-conceived notions, no mental chatter, no “thinking”… just pure observation without judgment.
It’s a useful technique to use when we’re evaluating our website, because we get super caught up in our own internal mental chatter, and that sometimes leads us to make bad assumptions.
My challenge to you today is to look at your website with a beginner’s mind. You don’t know you, you’re experiencing it for the first time.
You don’t have trust, time, or patience; you have no clue where things are located, and you don’t have familiarity with that third paragraph on your about page that took you 3 hours to perfect.
As you review your website (as if visiting for the first time), ask yourself these questions:
- What is it they do? (Is it clear?)
- What problem are they going to solve for me? (Is it clear?)
- Are they speaking to ME? Or is this for somebody else? (With more money, a different need, etc.) (Is it clear?)
- What makes these guys any different than the last site I looked at? (Is it clear?)
- Where do I go to find information about ______? (Is it clear?)
- Where am I now on the site, where should I go next, how can I get back to where I was? (Is it clear?)
- How do I get in touch/buy/take the next step? (Is it clear?)
If you’ve discovered any areas where you aren’t making it super clear who you are, how they can find what they’re looking for, and what actions they should take — you’re certainly not alone. Most websites are far from perfect! But now you’ve discovered some great opportunities to make your website work much harder for you. Don’t panic or burn your website to the ground, just put them on your list of things to focus on when you have some free time.
Lather, rinse, repeat. 🙂
Taughnee Stone is an award-winning designer, brand strategist, and location-independent business owner for over 15 years. Originally from Anchorage, Alaska, she now lives in Croatia with her husband, energetic Samoyed, and three bossy cats.