Look at my website. Go ahead. Look.
Wait. I’ll save you the trouble. Here’s a screenshot.
Not only is it a placeholder site, but it’s already sitting at zero. Man, I suck.
This has to change. It’s time to redesign the website. Since I’m contemplating upgrading my digs here this week, I thought it would be a good time to think through some of the conceptual problems and solutions to creating a ridiculously better website. Here are 4 problems that websites are routinely faced with along with possible solutions.
Problem 1: The website is confusing/hard to use/incomplete
I’ve had 3 previous websites if you don’t count the placeholder and all of them have been bad. Why is that?
Is it a lack of skill? A lack of knowledge? What has been the problem?
Simply put – and this might be where you’re at too – I didn’t have clarity in my business.
I was essentially selling myself. My strength is my versatility. Packaging that in a way that made sense felt beyond my capacity. And so I let my website falter. I didn’t have a way to reasonably put what I had to offer on the website, so I didn’t.
My problem is that I didn’t want to put myself in a box. I wanted to be a Swiss Army Knife. This, by the way, is a bad business model. It’s why you don’t see any “I’ll cook anything you want” restaurants. People generally like to zero in on their needs a bit more than that.
Solution 1: Get clarity in your business
For me, I needed to figure out what I wanted to do with my day. What are the few things that I really wanted to push? And more to the point, what do I think the market needs and that I can both sell and deliver on?
I put the same question to you: what 1-3 things do you or your business specialize in? What’s your go to bread-and-butter?
How can people use your website and learn about you and what you have to offer if you yourself don’t know what that is? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Step 1 is Know Thyself.
Problem 2: My website doesn’t stand out/is boring/looks like a template
If you’re using a CMS like WordPress, chances are good that what you’re using IS a template. And I don’t mean the custom kind that you built by hand. I mean the $40 version you get from ThemeForest. And while those themes are good for getting a website up and running, they really do have a recycled feel to them that works against you. Often times, the website is just boring. Or more likely, your website suffers the indignity of being more or less indistinguishable from the next guy.
As a result, your branding suffers. Nobody gets jazzed about your products and services based on the website. Stagnation rules.
Solution 2: Create a narrative using text, imagery, and technology
As much as it seems like the obvious answer is to go hire a graphic designer, this is not the route I would immediately recommend. The real question is, what story are you trying to tell? Everybody has one. Maybe you’re just saying it in a lame way. Consider how to use text, imagery, and technology to your advantage.
For example, I’ve been trying to think of how to use parallax scrolling in a website to illustrate a critical path. This website for the Dangers of Fracking – which, seriously, that stuff is dangerous – is an incredible site. They could easily come off as pedantic and overbearing but instead the website feels cool, original, and creates enough of a story that I’m with them all the way through their message. It’s as good of an awareness website as you’re likely to see. (Seriously, Linda Dong did a great job.)
You don’t have to do something extra slick like the above website to generate a strong narrative. The e-commerce website Altrec is consistently one of the most impressive sites I know. Their narrative is simple: we sell the outdoor gear you need. We’re easy to surf, we have good prices, and we care about you. And as narratives go, that’s a good one.
Problem 3: The website doesn’t get enough sales/leads
This is the number one reason I’m updating my website and likely the main reason you want to update yours. This is simple. If you’ve got clarity and you have a narrative and you find yourself starved for sales/leads, you have one of a few problems:
1. You don’t get enough traffic to your website
2. Your traffic doesn’t buy/sign up as much as you’d like
Solution 3: Focus on traffic, paths and goals
It’s important to know which problem you have: a traffic problem or a website problem. If it’s traffic based, SEO and SEM are your likely avenues to help you get more people on your website. But more likely, your website will be under-performing.
In this case, you need to analyze for paths and goals. Ask yourself: what do I want my users to do? And then make it as easy and sensical to get from the front page to the target page. Rinse and repeat for each part of your site. Doing so will ensure that your site is built with goals and paths which funnel traffic to those goal pages.
Problem 4: People love your website and everything is great
This is highly unlikely. Even when things are good they can almost always be better. Don’t get complacent.
Solution 4: The cake is a lie. Welcome to the world of UX tools.
A great way to do that is with UX tools. If you’re new to what these tools can do for you, what they do best is open your eyes to how people are using your website. And almost always it’s not how you expect. Once you see this, you’re going to want to make changes for the better. It will push you to iterate into a better, more profitable situation. Be sure to checkout our UX directory for loads of tools that can help you gain insights into the effectiveness of your website.