I spend a fair amount of time with clients looking at and advising on their web sites. Generally they fall in to three camps; most of my clients have built their sites themselves; some have employed a friend or family member who ‘does web sites’; a few have employed a professional to build their sites for them.
However they got their web site, most people who come to see me are often less than satisfied with them. It might be because they feel that they are out of date with current design, or there might be too much copy. Worse still for some people their site remains unfinished because they are so busy running their business that they don’t have time to finish it, so links don’t work, blogs pages remain empty of content, or products/services are out of date.
What is your web site for and why does it have to be beautiful?
Your web site is your online business card. People might hear about you via word of mouth or through some other channel, but the first thing they will do is look for you online and it is almost scary how quickly people will make a decision to work with you based on your web site.
As soon as potential customers land on your web site, they are already making assumptions about your business based on the copy on your home page and the images you have chosen. Given that potentially you have very little time to impress them, can you risk your web site being anything less than beautiful?
Unfortunately the idea of a beautiful web site is not my own, but one I pinched from my fabulous web designer Katie VanDyck of 100designs.co.uk
Katie and I have worked on several web sites, and as well as being a great web designer Katie is also a brilliant photographer.
What I have learned- Authenticity!
Katie is the first photographer I have met who only uses natural light. She does this because she feels it brings an authenticity to het subjects that can be lost with studio lighting.
I think the same principle applies to businesses and their web sites. The best kind of web sites are those where we get a real feeling for the person/people running the business and their story; where you feel that the site reflects the values of the founder. This is what makes a web site stand out.
Beautiful web sites matter because:
- SEO (Search Engine Optimisation, or how you improve the way you are found on the web, specifically Google) responds well to beautiful, relevant images and succinct copy
- Images really do speak a thousand words – the images you put on your site evoke feelings in the people who look at them, and give them more of a feel for your business, than your words ever can.
- Functionality should always be beautiful too. There is no point having lovely images and design if your web site is not user-friendly, or doesn’t direct people to your ‘call to action’.
But by far the most important lesson I learned from Katie, is that the PROCESS of building the web site was as valuable for me as the end result. I learned so much about my business from the questions that Katie asked me that it helped shape HOW I promote my business. This is what a good web designer should do.
‘But Marisa, what about the money?!’ I hear you cry! Web sites are expensive, and designers’ abilities vary. This is a fact, but looking at it a different way, you have to think about how much of your time you are going to invest building a web site. Unless you LOVE building web sites, or learning this skill is going to enhance your business in some way, it is going to cost you a huge amount of time and when you are running your own business, time really is money.
BUT, if you really are short on funds and want to do a good job yourself, here are my golden rules:
- Make sure you invest in professional photographs. Google hates duplication so stock images are bad for SEO, and they do not look authentic, therefore they cheapen your brand.
- Ditto head shots. Whatever you do DO NOT USE SELFIES! Aesthetically they do not look good and make it look as though you couldn’t be bothered to do anything else. Make sure you get a good professional head shot.
- Be careful and succinct with copy. Make sure it is relevant and not all about you! People want to know that you are good at what you do, but remember that they are seeking your product/service because they have a problem they want solving so figure out what that is, and how you can help them.
- Keep your site up to date! It sounds obvious, but you would be surprised how many businesses set up a great web site and never do anything with it. Out of date products and services are really off putting to your customers, so check it weekly at least.
- Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your web site shouldn’t be either! There are many online courses that tell you that you can build a web site in a day or two, but I think this misses the point about what your web site is for.
Your web site is your shop front – a vital component of your business. If it were a real shop front, you wouldn’t dream of putting it together in a day. The process of building your web site teaches you about your business and challenges your assumptions about your customers. If you rush it, you miss a vital learning opportunity.
So take your time and think carefully before you embark on designing a web site – it might end up costing you and your business more than you think.
If you would like some help with your web site and how you market yourself, book a 30 minute free consultation here.