There is Yin and Yang, right and left, hot and cold, black and white, and, good design and bad design. In this regard, there is a high percentage of small and medium businesses – SMBs – websites that are viewed as ‘poorly designed’ that significantly impact their ability, to use the websites as key marketing and sales tools, for building, growing, and maintaining a successful business. In the current environment, an important SMBs focus is to professionally design, develop, deploy, and proactively promote their websites as mission-critical meeting and communication points that reflects the needs and requirements of targeted market sectors and customers.

Market intelligence reports that about 36% of SMBs lack a website or are using a one or limited page sites with modest content, graphics, and links. Also, over half of SMBs have not yet developed and deployed a supporting mobile app. Maintaining an optimized site is central to obtaining new customers, building market credibility, and building loyal customer relationships.

Website visitors rarely leave a site with a neutral feeling. For most, the website is an unknown quantity, so their first view of the business will either provide a positive or negative impression of the company products and services.

The modern web site business and technical best practices requirements include:

Poor Design

The cost of designing a website is a major decision and concern for SMB businesses. As a result, many take shortcuts with use of free templates or hosted solutions. Numerous online vendors offer “drag-and-drop” website building apps that claim to allow users to launch a new website in short timeframes. The problem with these services and their approach is that each design facet adds dozens of lines to the back-end code and makes the site load slower. Over time, this can lead to significant performance issues and technical problems.

In summary, poor website design weakens the corporate message the business needs to convey to prospects. Site visitors who experience a bad website interaction will usually not initiate a relationship with the business. Additionally, they most likely will tell their colleagues about their experience and this will keep them away as well.

Headers, Sidebars, and Footers

It is a common assumption that website heading areas, footers, and sidebars are designed exclusively for advertisements. However, it’s a concern when webpages display a high number of ads and banners, especially when there’s little supporting content. These areas can be more effectively utilized for additional navigation within the site. Also, there is no wrong location to place a banner across the top of the page advertising a special promotion. This only means to remember the importance of design and balance throughout the web site.

Branding

Many SMBs communicate their ‘brand’ with the ‘everything factor’: “We’re the #1″, We offer the cheapest product,” “We never make mistakes”, etc. These branding statements commonly obscure the real brand and message, confuse prospects, and make them think the business is undistinguished at everything. Highly recognizable and successful brands, try to be known for one primary value, and continually focus on that point. What differentiates your company in a meaningful way? That’s your brand?

Credibility Elements

To overcome prospective buyer uncertainty, businesses need to include powerful credibility elements in appropriate website pages locations. The most impressive credibility elements are customer testimonials; industry trade memberships and certifications, BBB and other well-known accreditations; and statistics about number of customers, and other pertinent data that makes the business appear big, growing, and successful! Without credibility elements, website visitors can only rely on the marketing propaganda to make business engagement decisions.

Mobile-Friendly / Responsive Design

Currently, most people access the Internet from mobile devices versus desktop computers. If the website is not mobile-friendly with a responsive design, the business is estimating to be writing off 50% of the potential audience! Additionally, a mobile-unfriendly website is a negative for SEO, and likely to impact it a lot more in the coming years. The best practice is to have a responsive design, making the website adjust automatically for optimum display on any size screen. Since Google introduced a search update that penalizes non-responsive sites in mobile searches, this is a major problem for those who generate leads online.

Navigation

Durable navigation is intuitive and simple and makes it easy for visitors to quickly locate what they need and get back to where they were. A high percentage of websites create too many navigation labels in the header, using non-intuitive text for their labels (“People” versus “About Us”), failing to use sidebar and/or breadcrumb navigation to supplement top-level navigation.

No Call to Action (CTA)

Visitors won’t know why they are visiting a website if it lacks a main Call to Action (CTA) facility. Even worse, most websites do not display appropriate contact data and contact forms and / or links in prominent location on pages. If a business is not providing prospective customer visitors with a reason for visiting the website and a user-friendly way to contact the company, they will usually click to a competitor.

Metrics

Without website performance metrics, businesses are unable to track progress, their organic and paid reach, and customer purchase habits and needs. Market intelligence reports that about 75% of businesses do not effectively use analytics tools like Google Analytics to analyze website’s performance.

SEO

Because SMBs are not recognizable household names, potential customers need to be able to find these businesses in Google and other search results. Many websites are poorly structured for SEO, making it difficult or near impossible for the search engine crawlers to understand the website content and rank it accordingly. The result is that these businesses are invisible in the searches. Market intelligence reports that a majority of SMBs cannot be found in online searches because their websites earn a Google Page Rank of zero or have no Google Page Rank at all.

Online discoverability is critical to driving prospective customers to find the business. Many SMBs hesitant to implement a search engine optimization strategy, which effectively keeps them from better search visibility because they lack an understand of SEO.

Content Quality

The number one search engine ranking criteria is the quality of the content displayed on websites. However, businesses frequently invest serious financial and human resources to build a sleek, beautiful site and then treat the actual content writing as an afterthought. This impacts the number one way to engage prospective customer visitors and increase conversion rates. To determine if content is high enough in quality, check the bounce and click through rates for website visitors. This metric will identify if browsers are viewing multiple pages and taking actions on-the website or leaving quickly.

Content Edit and Refresh

Websites updated frequently regularly rank higher on search engines and are more engaging for browsers. Continual content editing and updating can be time-consuming and frustrating! A best practice to reduce the content editing activity effort, reduce expenses, and improve productivity is to create the website on a recognized content management platform with rich functionality and technical capabilities.

Grammar & Typos

Website content must be free of grammatical errors, spelling errors, ambiguous statements, and other shortcomings that show customers and prospects that the company doesn’t support total quality, pay attention to details and, lacks sophistication and professionalism.

Stock Photography

SMBs are regularly on a tight financial budget, so use of stock photography is an attractive way to cut costs on website design. This is a big mistake as most web users have likely viewed thousands of websites and  seen most stock images many times over. Stock photography generally conveys a lack of imagination, a company that is going through the motions and presenting a false image.

Dedicated IT Support

Most SMB companies don’t have the technical staff to provide for a full-time website monitoring and management support activity. Without dedicated technical support effort, businesses risk security breaches and costly technical glitches and mistakes. Website technical support should encompass regular website updates, plugins, and database, as well as optimizing performance and regular backups.


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