content rules

We’ve all run across websites that look like they were designed in someone’s basement by a 12 year old. Right? I don’t think the majority of business owners set out to design a crappy looking website, but all to often, the end result is just not pretty. I believe most of these cases could be classified under the heading, “you don’t know what you don’t know.”

Web Design for ROI: Turning Browsers into Buyers & Prospects into Leads” by Lance Loveday and Sandra Niehaus delves into the topic of how to design websites that really make money and convert visitors to buyers. This book is an easy read at 190 pages, with lots of colorful pictures to show the good, the bad, and the ugly of web design.

The book starts with a discussion on how to view your website as an investment. Redesigning key elements of a website can increase your conversion rate. In layman’s terms that equates to change this + change that = more money.

I think one of the biggest misconceptions among small business owners is the idea that once the website is designed and launched, it’s done. All they have to do is sit back and watch the sales pour in. Ahh, if it were only that easy. (Of course, if it was, I wouldn’t have a job.) A website is never, ever done. It must be continually updated.

Loveday and Niehaus write about managing your website for return on investment (ROI). It’s about knowing what your business goals are, knowing who your audience is, creating a website strategy, measuring the right metrics, prioritizing the design efforts, and testing. I liked the website strategy so much, I blogged about its importance in “Keys to Writing a Website Strategy.”

“Web Design for ROI” then breaks down each page of your website into a chapter. Landing pages, home pages, category pages, detail pages, forms, and your checkout pages are covered in great detail. It is important to understand that each page has a goal and they aren’t all the same.

So, how exactly do you start the process? In the book, the authors talk about visitor questions and how they relate to the different kind of pages on your site. Sit back and pretend you are a first time visitor to your own website. What questions are running through your mind when you visit? (For more information on visitor questions, read my blog post “Is Your Website Giving Customers the Right Answers?”)

Once you have answers to the questions your visitors are asking, then you can set about to design a site for the people who are actually using it. Believe it or not, you aren’t designing the site for yourself or your boss. You are designing the website for the visitor.

Key website design elements are covered in detail, but if I had to choose my top 10 favorites from “Web Design for ROI” they would be:

Establish credibility with a professional design.  Look like what you are. (If you sell video games you can be fun and funky to appeal to a younger audience. If you are marketing legal services, fun and funky is probably not your best bet.)

Use a standard navigation scheme. Make it easy and intuitive. Put it in the same place on every page. (Your web designers might have designed the coolest web site in the world, but if nobody can figure out what to click on to get to the next page, you will be alone and poor in all your coolness.)

Use clear, sharp, professional images and standardize the sizes. (i.e. 200 x 200 on the category page and 350 x 350 on the detail page)

Include customer testimonials.

Don’t give people too many choices on each page. Keep your visitor focused.

Customize language and landing pages for different types of potential customers.

Use a main call to action and secondary calls to action on each page. If your page requires scrolling, repeat calls to action down the page.

Ask visitors for the minimum amount of information in forms and through check out.

Create your categories and navigation to support how your visitors think and act.

Avoid gobbledygook. Avoid intimidating or unclear language. Be clear, obvious, and concise.

Revisit your website and really think about how a first time visitor sees it. “Web Design for ROI: Turning Browsers into Buyers & Prospects into Leads” will give you a clear cut action plan to make improvements to your website that will result in a greater return on your investment.

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