OK, I’m a Web Designer so you would be right in thinking that I believe that every business needs a website. Duh!
To be honest, I am actually amazed when people I meet ask me if they need a website at all. I guess I just figure that everyone accepts that they do – but that’s clearly not the case.
I believe that every business needs a website because I know that without one your business is missing a key marketing component that can’t always be measured by SEO or sales conversions. And if you’ve already got one and don’t think it’s working for you, then this post may help you realise just how much your website is doing for you too.
Recently, one of my clients contacted me about updating their website. The M.H. Vehicle Services website has been live for 3 years (a bit of a shock to all of us) and since then I’ve only made one update. It was a simple build to replace a website that wasn’t really doing anything for them and they are a successful family-run garage business that you wouldn’t actually think needs any further advertisement. The website they have doesn’t cost a lot to maintain (under £100 per year) and I was called in to update their address and add a couple of pages to the site to reflect a physical move to new premises and add some new services. Standard stuff.
And while I was there Matt (head mechanic and owner) confirmed that clients told him they look at the website and compare the photo of their garage with the building when they arrive to know they have found the right place. His wife Gill, administrator extraordinaire, admitted that people also say they look at the website before they call. Even without massive updates, this site provides potential clients with proof that the business exists and that they provide services that these customers are looking for.
So, here are my Top 5 Reasons your business needs a website:
#1 – YOU ARE WHO YOU SAY YOU ARE
Let’s put it this way, if I can’t find a website for a company I’m looking to work with, or to do work for me, then I usually don’t bother going any further. The website doesn’t even need to be fantastic. It just needs to tell me that the business is what it says it is. I go for honesty and the more detail the better. Links to social media are good too as it shows they are interested in communicating in real-time. It really frustrates me when I know a business can’t be bothered to have even a basic site.
#2 – 24/7 VISIBILITY
People surf the web at all hours. You never know when you customers are going to be online. What about shift-workers or insomniacs? Getting your message out 24/7 is one of the most powerful tools your business has if you use it correctly.
#3 – OWNERSHIP
Social media is great but if a platform goes bust or changes their algorithm so no-one sees your stuff anymore then you can’t do anything about it. Your website is YOURS. You own it. You make the decisions you want to make about what it includes. Your website is your hub for all online interaction so it doesn’t matter what the next big platform is – you’ll have content to share to it.
#4 – WEED OUT TIMEWASTERS
The best part about having your own website? You get to share the stuff that’s most important to you. Swear if you want to, use bright colours, share your personality. All of this gives your clients an insight into who you are and helps you weed out those who don’t. You may think that this cuts off your supply of potential clients but it is actually the opposite. If you create a website that you are proud of and it turns someone off then that’s great. You don’t need to waste time on people who don’t fit with you. Better to find out upfront than to be 3 months into a business relationship and find out that you really don’t jell.
#5 – IT GIVES YOU AN EDGE
There are plenty of businesses out there that still don’t have a website – and those that do but haven’t updated it for donkeys years. They don’t think it’s important or they are still living in the age of the Yellow Pages. Move with the times and get ahead of others in your industry. Create a website that people want to visit. If two businesses are up for a job and one doesn’t have a site or their site isn’t great then they are more likely to be dismissed without even knowing it. Your website gives you an edge that you may never really fully measure.
So, are you convinced yet? If you don’t have a website yet then please look at getting one with urgency if you want your business to succeed. And give me a yell if you would like some obligation free advice on the best way forward for you.
This is the question I get asked most often by clients and is usually followed by statements such as:
“I have nothing to write”
“Why would anyone be interested in me”
“I can’t write 1,000 words every week!”
“It’s all too complicated”
The list goes on and on and all of these statements have one thing in common – FEAR! They are excuses to ignore the amazing impact that regular blogging can have on your business – and also on you.
Now, I’ve already written about why your business needs a blog and given you 50 awesome blog ideas so the problem isn’t the WHY or even the WHAT, but the HOW.
Oh, and this isn’t a guide to which blogging platform to use. There are so many of them out there – from WordPress to eBlogger to Medium or even one that’s included with your template website. Here’s a great list of the Top 10 platforms for 2018 if you need help choosing. Once you’re all set up on the tech side, then read the practical soft-skills guide below to getting over that initial paralysis and putting your words out there into the digi-verse!
Step 1 – Decide You Can
I’m not being flippant here – this is simply a reminder that you can do this! Take a deep breath and remember that you have just as much right to share your opinion as anyone else. In fact, you may just be the voice that the world is waiting for. Unless you start, you’ll never know! Once you’ve overcome this initial obstacle the rest of the process actually becomes much easier.
Step 2 – Write Everything Down
I take a notebook with me everywhere I go and jot down interesting thoughts, conversations and questions all the time. You could use your phone or tablet too if you prefer. You’ll be surprised just how many thoughts you have during the day that can be transformed into blog posts with very little work. Inspiration usually hits when you’re not at your desk so don’t sit there waiting for it.
Step 3 – Start Writing
Make time to write a blog post based on your notes. Start with one post and build from there.
“Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go” – E.L. Doctorow
Don’t concern yourself too much with how many words you’ve written as it can put you off if you think you’ve got too few. Those articles telling you that the ‘ideal’ blog post contains 1,200 words are not helpful here. Any length is better than none and sometimes a quick short post can say it all. Like this post by my friend Liz Abram. It’s under 200 words but wonderfully written and gained good traction for her on social media.
Step 4 – Create Structure
Every blog post needs editing. Writing everything in one long paragraph isn’t going to inspire readers to stick around. Think of breaking your post down into sections using sub-headings (like I’m doing here). Short digestible chunks are what you’re aiming for. Use the built-in Heading styles in your builder to differentiate between levels and use bullet points or numbering if appropriate.
Step 5 – Add Links
Linking to other posts you’ve written and to external websites helps boost the SEO performance of your blog post. It also helps show your readers that you have researched your topic and can point them in the right direction if you’re not covering something they should also know. At least one internal link (your site) and one external link (another site) is a good start.
Step 6 – Add Images
Images break up your text and bring more interest to your post – as long as they are relevant. I recommend using your own images where possible but if you use the work of others always credit the original source either in a caption or by linking to the original source. I use Canva to create my own images (like this one) and recommend Pixabay for royalty-free images if you really need to go there.
Step 7 – Publish It!
I know people who have hundreds of draft posts ready to go but don’t have the courage to press ‘Publish’. Remember that your writing will improve and change over time. You are writing from your current perspective so be brave and let the world see it. It’s actually good to look back at earlier posts and see just how much your style has changed over the months and years.
Step 8 – Share It
Let people know it’s there. Share your blog post on social media. The image you use for your post will be really important here as this will encourage people to find out more and actually click through to the post. If your post contains evergreen content (content that doesn’t go out of date) make sure you share it more than once. Add it to your social media calendar to share again in the future. There is no use writing new content daily when you will be building a library of content to repost.
So, that’s it! My step-by-step guide to taking that first step to having a blog. Consistency really is key so I encourage you to set yourself a goal of regular writing – be that once a month or once a day – and try to stick with it.
P.S. – If you’d like to grab a copy of my ‘Evolution of a Blog Post’ printable, then sign up for my monthly newsletter below. It’s the quickest way to stay informed of new posts and every so often you can also win some 1:1 digital time with me…
Building a website that reflects how you want your business to be seen is really important. If you build your site yourself you can often find that you become ‘website blind’. You only see what you want to see. You know where things are and assume your customers will too. You’ve followed my advice and taken a fresh look at your website.
But often this isn’t the case and you lose customers because your site isn’t as clear as you think it is.
Here’s the solution to that problem. Ask a trusted adviser, friend, colleague or better yet your ideal customer to take a look at your website and answer these 10 questions:
1. What was your first impression when you entered the website?
You have a measly 50 milliseconds to impress new visitors to your website. That’s how long it takes them to decide whether to stick around or not. Seriously! So if your site doesn’t catch their eye immediately or takes too long to load they’re gone… Make sure your ‘Call to Action’ is clear and they know exactly what you do on your site within a few seconds.
2. Does the website match my offline business?
Branding is everything. If your website looks clunky but you are selling high-end goods and services no-one is going to buy them. If you’re trying to attract professional clients but your website looks like a child has designed it (god forbid it includes Comic Sans) then you’ll lose the sale. Is your branding consistent across all of your assets – digital and printed – and does it match who YOU are?
3. Is there any important information missing?
Just because you know what you do and how to find you doesn’t mean you’ve made it clear on your website. Believe it or not, 51% of people think “thorough contact information” is the most important element missing from many company websites. And that includes you!
4. What one thing could I add to make the site better?
We often miss a key piece of information that users are looking for. Perhaps it’s an image or a link but you don’t see it because you’ve gone into website meltdown. This is a broad question but you’ll be amazed what gems your friends can suggest.
5. Is my pricing clear?
Now, this topic is one that I have many discussions about. I truly believe that you should put some pricing on your website – even if it’s ballpark figures. You don’t want to waste your time explaining your pricing to customers when they contact you. If they know up front then they can make a decision whether to call or not. No pricing = too expensive in many people’s opinions. I just don’t have time for that.
6. What do you like most/least about my website?
Do more of whatever your advisor says they like about your site. Perhaps it’s great blog content or awesome graphics. This questions should be an easy one to expand on.
OK, so the answer to what they like least may sting a little if your adviser is being really honest with you. But here’s the thing:
“We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.” – Bill Gates
7. Could you find all of the information you needed?
If you do more than one thing you could ask your adviser to complete a simple task – such as booking an event or buying a product (you can always refund this later or run it in ‘test’ mode on some platforms). Feedback from a real consumer will help you greatly as you design how your site works. You could also ask them how long it takes to find a specific item that you think is your biggest seller. This can be really telling when it’s hidden away on your site!
8. Does my site look good on all devices?
As of February 2017, mobile devices excluding tablets accounted for 49.73 percent of web page views worldwide. Get your adviser to check out how your site looks and functions on a desktop, phone and tablet to make sure you’re not missing out on a huge chunk of business. Upgrading to a mobile responsive site may seem like a big investment, but it will pay for itself quickly if you’re missing out on half of all users!
9. What should I write more about?
Blogging is a great way of keeping both current and prospective clients interested in what you have to say. It also shows that you know what you’re talking about in your own industry. Are you making the most of your own knowledge? Perhaps this is something to devote more time to?
10. Is my website easy to navigate?
38% of users will leave a website if they can’t find what they are looking for easily or the layout is unattractive. Having to click through page after page to find what you are looking for is tedious. And with more and more users accessing the web from their phones, making navigation easy is paramount. You could ask your adviser to check the navigation on different devices to make sure all are working well.
So, there it is. My quick list of questions to ask to really get your website working for your business. Let me know how you get on and if you need any help bringing your site up to scratch, you know where I am.
I’ve been creating websites since 2003 and thankfully a lot has moved on since then. So it astonishes me that businesses are still creating websites (or having them built for them) with little thought about images and graphics. Simply relying on stock photography is not the solution.
So here are my 5 top tips to help you choose and display your website images:
1 Use your own photographs
I get it. We all have budgets to stick to and bespoke images may seem too expensive. But PLEASE invest some time and money in getting some professional photographs done for your website. For example, a photographer I know takes headshots of her clients as well as shots of their hands typing and writing, etc, to use on their websites. So even though there are the standard ‘hand’ shots that appear on other sites, they are HER hands and HER stationery. Now that’s got to be better, doesn’t it?
2 Use photos that match your Brand
One of my friends had some headshots taken once and although the photos were good, they didn’t represent her or her business at all. To be honest she looked like a real estate agent instead of a life coach whose speciality is ‘Walk and Talk’ sessions in the great British countryside. Spend some time researching photographers, look at their work and decide which one suits YOUR style. You’ll be glad you did. Oh, and her photos now look AWESOME because she teamed up with another photographer who really captured her personality.
3 Keep images consistent
The current design trend is for ‘flat’ websites and images are a huge part of that look. The term refers to how images sit on the page; minimising the use of features such as drop shadows. I recently saw a website with images looking like they had been taped to the page. Very retro and not at all in keeping with their business. However, if you do use an effect for your images – use it across the site.
4 Resize your images properly
Take the time to learn how to add images to your site without distorting them and make sure they look great on any device. Your web designer should be able to do this for you and if they can’t, I would be asking some pretty serious questions! You can also use a program such as Canva to keep all of your images consistent and to brand them with your logo and colours.
5 Pay someone who does it for a living
Now I love a bit of amateur photography but I am no Annie Leibovitz. So I too will be using a photographer for my new headshots. Although I have warned her that if she takes photos of me under a tree I will shoot her! Spending a little money now is an investment that will help my business in the long run and stand me apart from those who don’t think it’s important.
So, there are just a few considerations when it comes to sourcing pics for your website. If you could give just one tip about creating images what would it be? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you.
Building a website is pretty easy once you know what your brand, know how you want it to flow and the content you want to include. However, simply building a website and leaving it to petrify isn’t good for your business. It also means your website will never fulfill its true potential.
Your website does a lot more than you may think because it…
Lets potential customers know who you are
Your colours and branding should represent your business accurately. This may change over time, so it’s important to update your site to reflect those changes.
Gives you a space to connect with customers
You may have a presence on social media for more instantaneous contact with your customers, but you don’t own those sites. You do, however, own your website. Posting blog articles that show your specialty and expertise are a great way of making sure that people revisit your site for inspiration and advice. That’s where they will then see new offers and decide to work with you. Check out this great article on HuffPost on why you should start your own blog if you don’t already have one on your website.
Screens and filters potential customers
It’s just as important to know who you DON’T want to work with as who you DO want to work with. A well-designed website that truly reflects your values and brand will actually filter out customers who don’t fit with what you do. Saying your target audience is ‘everyone’ is simply not good practice. Focusing in on who you want to work with will give you an edge.
So is your website fulfilling its potential?
The simplest way of checking this is to get a colleague or friend to visit your website and ask them to answer four questions about it:
- What does this website sell?
- Who is the target market for this website?
- What does the brand of this website say to you?
- Was it easy to find what you were looking for?
If their answers don’t match what you are trying to convey then it’s time to have a rethink and spend some time modifying your content and branding. Just like I’ve done this month!
Oh, and if you need any help creating a new website that is easy for you to manage yourself then you know where I am…
P.S. Since I launched my rebranded site I have asked my own ‘tribe’ to let me know what they think. Their comments and suggestions have been really useful in helping me to fix a few errors that I thought only I may have spotted!
Font and typography have always been an important part of design and document production – from leaflets to magazines, from websites to posters. In fact, many of the typefaces we are familiar with can be traced back centuries such as Garamond (1490), Baskerville (1757) and Bodoni (1780). The typeface you use gives your written words their character and sets the tone of your message.
I am a huge fan of using different typefaces. You can frequently find me browsing the latest gorgeous additions from websites such as Font Bundles and 1001 Fonts. We are so fortunate to have access to such a massive collection that there is honestly no reason at all to use Times New Roman for every single thing you create. Unless you REALLY love it.
However, just because there are thousands of fonts available to you doesn’t mean you should use them all – well not all at once anyway!
Here are my two simple steps to using fonts on your website and within your brand in general:
Set the Tone
Decide what tone you are trying to set and choose a font category to match. The four categories are:
- Serif (such as Times New Roman and Baskerville Old Face) is the traditional font dating back to Mr. Garamond’s day. These fonts convey a conservative and safe feel.
- Sans Serif (such as Arial and Helvetica) is more modern and convey a minimalistic and clean feel.
- Script (such as French Script and Edwardian Script) are elegant with a handwritten feel and lots of loops. They convey sophistication but can be difficult to read.
- Display (such as Comic Sans and Papyrus) are big and bold and convey fun. They are great for headings and posters but not so much if you want to be taken seriously.
Think about the type of business you run and the type of customers you have. These will help you decide which font categories would work well for your brand. Your fonts should be fit for purpose and match the look and feel your business has, just as much as the colours and design do.
You can mix and match these categories to great effect, but choosing too many fonts can be a huge mistake – which leads me to my second point:
Simplicity is Key
“I strive for two things in design: simplicity and clarity. Great design is born of those two things.” ~ Lindon Leader
Most designers will agree that sticking to a maximum of just three fonts is a good guide for not just websites but in all design. Each font has italic, bold and italic bold options making a total of 12 variants for you to choose from. Then you can change the size and colour too. Pick a fancier font for your headings and display pieces and then stick to Serif or Sans Serif the rest of the text.
Whatever fonts you choose STICK TO THEM throughout your brand. The confusion comes when businesses use one font on their website and another in their literature and emails. Find a font that works for you and use it for everything to build consistency and trust in your brand.
And finally, take a look at some of your own favourite brands for inspiration. It’s important to create your own look, but there is no harm in seeing how the companies you admire already do it. Getting clear on your own tastes helps you create a brand that reflects who you are!