Your Website Sucks: Here's What to Do About It
Your website could suck, and you could not know it. You might be catering to too wide an audience, making it difficult for people to navigate the site and understand your product, or simply have a sloppy design.
I’ve recently come across some resources that can help with these (and other) common challenges for web-based entrepreneurs:
E-Book: Why Your Website Sucks — and How to Fix It)
Co-authors Andy Hayes and Kelly Erickson bring a wealth of complimentary experience and knowledge to the table with Why Your Website Sucks — and How to Fix It. Andy has carved a niche for himself in the travel and tourism industry, providing new-media solutions to travel industry professionals as well as producing his own travel guides and related services. And Kelly’s expertise lies in creating the ideal customer experience with tools like integrated graphic design.
The focus of the guide is to help you improve your conversion rate (turning people who land on your site into paying customers), and a consistent theme throughout (and one that applies to any business — online or otherwise) is target marketing. The authors identify (in detail) the different personality types of customers, their traits, how and why they buy, pros and cons of working with each personality type, and how to design your website to cater to each group. I particularly enjoyed this breakdown and identified with the various personality traits of customers.
After establishing the different customer profiles, the authors detail each stage of the buying cycle for each personality, going into how best you can cater to them to keep the customer interested and ultimately moving towards a sale.
Tips to Improve Your Customer Conversion
Without giving away the meat of the guide, here are a few tips I learned that I found to be useful:
- Forget about design. A pretty website won’t do much for sales if your language doesn’t speak (pardon the pun) to your ideal customer. “Terminal vagueness” is a plague that can kill your business if you’re not watching out for it.
- You’ve got three seconds to grab your customer and convince them to stay on your site. Make sure your site name, tag line, and bright shiny objects are enough to accomplish this task.
- Not all customers will land on your home page first. How do your other pages measure up in terms of navigation?
- Your menu is key to keeping customers moving towards a sale.
- Grabbing your readers above the fold is important. But what are you doing to entice them to scroll down? (This section ties into each customer profile nicely with examples of effective copy.)
- Busy sidebars are not always good.
- The "Most Common Mistakes" chapter at the end was a favorite, with lots of great learning points based on realistic examples.
I was especially surprised to learn that distracting pop ups, flash animations, pictures, and video that you see on many sites these days don’t hold nearly as much impact as I would have thought given the sheer number of sites that have these features. (Personally I find them annoying, but I figured I was the only one turned off by them).
I enjoyed the overall tone of the book. Both authors throw some personal flair into the guide, and it’s a relatively easy read with plenty of examples drawn from their experience. Although there is a travel industry bend to the guide, it seems that the principles of customer conversion and website design are universally applicable.
At the end of each chapter you get an "A.S.A.P." (Anti-Suck Action Plan) which summarizes the key learning points you can take away. There’s also an accompanying Anti-Suck Action Plan Workbook that works in tandem with the guide, offering exercises and suggestions to complement each chapter. I think that if you use the workbook and follow all the exercises and suggestions between the guide and workbook, your site will improve.
Why Your Website Sucks — and How to Fix It
- Anti-Suck Action Plan Workbook
- Bonus recording of a 51-minute interview with Naomi Dunford (expert on small business marketing) about emotion’s role in online marketing
- Money-back guarantee (no questions asked) within 90 days
Other Options to Make Your Website Suck Less
Although I love reading e-books, I also find that execution can be a challenge. For this reason, I am a fan of consulting services, as they’re personalized assessments with actionp lans that include a degree of accountability. If you’re not a self-study sort of person or aren’t sold on the effectiveness of e-books, here are some consulting options:
TOP (Travel Online Partners)
The authors of Why Your Website Sucks also offer a consulting service. Their website audit service is quite popular, along with other options like SEO and social media marketing. You can start with their free assessment to see what resources will work best for you.
CGMK Consulting is another consulting-based service in the travel and tourism industry, spearheaded by Nomadic Matt and Christine Gilbert. (You may recall that I’ve written about some of Nomadic Matt’s e-books; How to Make Money with Your Blog, Secrets to Successful World Travel, and How to Build a Travel Blog before; and about Christine Gilbert’s work on my own site. Both Matt and Christine are intrepid travelers who work in a fully location-independent manner, so they practice what they preach by making a full-time living online.
Their services range from quick and specific e-mail consultations ($50) or phone consultations (1 hour for $100), to segmented packages assisting you with issues like SEO, marketing, blog design, and monetization. They top-out with the full-deal Complete Package ($650) to help you build your web brand from scratch.
Note: I have not personally tried either TOP's or CGMK's consulting services myself, so I can’t attest to the value of either service. I am simply offering them up as options for people who prefer personalized advice to the generic tips of an e-book.
Not in the Travel and Tourism Industry?
Although both of these consulting companies target the travel and tourism industry, they acknowledge that any web-based entrepreneur can benefit from what they offer. “The principles of SEO and marketing are the same and can be used in any websites. We have contacts in the travel industry, but we can teach you the skills you need to make it in any industry,” says Matt Kepnes of CGMK.
Andy Hayes of TOP admits that although they target the travel and tourism industry, their actual market is much larger. “About 35-40% of our customers are not in the tourism industry. The principles and guidelines we teach are universal, and the feedback we get is that although our examples are tourism, these are still very useful to companies not in tourism.”
And as noted before, specializing (target marketing) is a great way to create a niche in which you are a sought-after expert, but is not a limitation against working with people outside of that market. It appears that both TOP and CGMK are examples of this principle in practice.
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