Best Practices for Website Functionality

Best Practices for Website Functionality

Springboarding off of our latest ebook on Website Functionality, we have compiled some key things to keep in mind when creating or re-building your website.

Starting a Dialogue

No matter what tips or tricks you learn to attract visitors to your website, never forget the end goal: to convert those leads into customers. A great way to do this is to start a dialogue with your visitors. A few ways to do this:

– An inviting contact us page. Don’t simply make your contact us page a list of ways to contact you. Put in a personal message, tell them a little bit about yourself and your staff, and most importantly, invite them to reach out. And then make it easy for them to do so! Studies have shown that websites that have their contact information somewhere on every page of their websites have significantly higher conversion rates than those that only list it on their contact us page.

– Website chat. This is a great way to boost your conversion rates, as we can personally attest. You’ve probably already experienced a chat window popping up on a website you’ve visited that asks you something like “how can we help?” or “what are you looking for?”. These chat windows can be linked to your mobile device, or really any device you want to dedicate to it. Once a customer sends a message in the chat, an alert will be sent to wherever you designate it. You can then respond immediately.

This doesn’t have to be a long, drawn-out conversation, however. It’s as simple as asking what they’re looking for, listening to their response, and then inviting them to set up an appointment or send you an email to discuss it further. You can also set up automated responses to do the same thing whenever you are unavailable. This is a great way to connect with your visitors, and your conversation rates will grow like crazy.

Whitespace

This is one that is often overlooked, but is crucial to the design on your website. Whitespace is exactly what it sounds like: the empty white space on a website page. The trick here is to utilize the space on your webpage to deliver information, but not to overwhelm your visitors. Have you ever been to a website that had so much content on it that you didn’t know where to start? That’s exactly the kind of experience you want to avoid.

A good example is Google’s homepage. It’s almost entirely whitespace with their logo and search bar in the center of the page. But when you look at it, are you focused on the whitespace? No, because the whitespace is used to draw the eye to the actual content on the screen.

There is definitely a fine balance to this, however. Too little or too much can hurt your website more than it helps. The key to using whitespace is to not think of it as empty space, but rather dividers that break your content into neat little packages. Once you’ve done that, this leads to the next step, which is…

Scanning-Friendly Content

In today’s society, it is not enough to have the perfect content. Those neat little packages need to be labeled. The reason for this is a practice called “scanning.” The majority of visitors that find websites based on their search results are often looking for a specific piece of information, and if those visitors don’t find what they’re looking for within seconds of looking at a page, they return to the search results. They do so by quickly scrolling (or scanning) the page trying to find the keyword that brought them to your page.

Headers and subheaders are how you capture their attention. We’ve already shown you an example of this in our blogs. While each blog covers a topic, each sub-topic is bolded and uses keywords to grab your attention. It’s a lot like the exit signs on highways that display categories of what you can expect to find at each off ramp: food, gas, lodging, etc. Except in this case, the off-ramp is the content within your page. You simply have to label it clearly so that they don’t miss your exit.

Plus, as a bonus, organizing your content in this way makes it easier for the search engine crawlers to know what content is on your page and how to properly file your website in their index.

Navigation-Friendly Content

There’s nothing worse than taking an exit in a town you don’t know and getting lost trying to find your way back to the highway. Actually, there is something worse: the same experience happening to a visitor on your website. This can happen when a visitor finds a specific page on your website based on their search results and that page isn’t designed to be a starting ground for exploring your website. To avoid this, try some of the following:

– A well-designed sitemap. While having a sitemap is a must for every website, a well-thought out one is worth the effort, as you can use it as the springboard for all of your navigation for the website. Break your website into categories that use keywords that describe your website and your content. A sitemap is often where search engine crawlers begin their index of your website, so having it spruced up not only makes navigation easier, but makes the crawlers’ job easier, which means a better chance at a higher search engine ranking.

– Navigation headers. Many website design models allow you to create headers designed to create a miniature version of your sitemap at the top of each page. That way, no matter what page of your site a visitor lands on, they’ll quickly be able to find their way around your website and know exactly where they are. Most of these headers use your sitemap as a reference point, telling visitors what category and subpage of the sitemap they are on.

– Easy-to-click links. While having links to the other pages on your site are good to have, an easy to miss detail can make a huge impact on your visitor’s experience: the size of your links. That is, the clickable portion around your links. With an ever-increasing focus on mobile-friendly websites, this is a must. Any link that visitors have to zoom their screen in to click isn’t a link they’re likely to follow. In fact, it’s often a point of frustration for visitors, and if your visitors are frustrated, they’re motivated to leave your website rather than dive in further.

Wrapping It Up

Obviously, there is much more to website functionality than what we have discussed here, but our hope is that this will give you a basic understanding of the process and a few ideas of where to start. If you have any questions or would like to discuss a plan of how to implement this process for your website and start boosting your traffic, we’d love to talk with you about how we can do this for you.

A Look Ahead at December

A Look Ahead at December

Website Functionality Content Series

Next month, we’ll be discussing what makes a website successful.  Our new e-Book, which will be released on Dec. 1, is on website functionality and covers steps you can take to improve both your website and the experience that visitors will have on it.  Each week after that, we’ll be diving into the details of what exactly website functionality means and practical tips you can use for your website.  Here’s a sneak peek:

  • December 5th: Converting Leads into Clients
  • December 12th: Intro to Google Analytics
  • December 19th: SEO and Website Functionality
  • December 26th: Best Practices for Website Functionality

If you’re already on our mailing list, you’ll automatically receive your copy of the e-book when it’s released, as well as get notifications when each of the blogs go live.  If not, click the link below to get signed up!

SSL’s are No Longer an Optional Add-On

SSL’s are No Longer an Optional Add-On

When we wrote our e-book that was released a few weeks ago, we mentioned that Google’s emphasis on SSL in their rankings would only continue to increase. In the last two months, we’ve seen a major shift in the way Google is handling websites that don’t have SSL certificates installed. Here are the highlights:

– Every non-SSL secured website has officially been logged and flagged in Google Chrome.  Every single one.  What this means is that if your website does not have an SSL certificate installed, a box that says “not secure” comes up next to your web address in the address bar.  And while it may not seem like an issue if a user isn’t using Chrome, other browsers such as Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer have begun to follow suit as well.

– Non-SSL secured websites are now dropping off of Google’s search results, and it may be due to visitors, not Google directly. That “not secure” flag can cause visitors to leave your website shortly after visiting or once they notice the warning. Both of these factors (“bounce” rates and time spent on your website” are major factors in Google’s ranking algorithms that will lower your website in the rankings, slowly at first, but gaining speed as more and more users establish this pattern.

– To tie this in with our SEO blog from last week, Google is also ramping up their focus on the content quality of websites. Specifically, the EAT principles (expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness). They’re now placing an emphasis on websites that have very apparent contact information, a privacy policy and terms of service, and share links to other websites and vice versa. Google is now looking at website content and checking to see if: 1) the content is authentic, 2) the content is accurate, and 3) the content is trust-worthy (this is where having other websites link to yours comes in).

While that last one doesn’t deal specifically in SSL, it was a big enough change that we thought it warranted throwing it in here for your consideration. As you can see, Google is making massive changes in how they view and rank websites, and SSL is at the core of it. It’s no longer an optional add-on; it’s a necessity if you want your website to be seen by others.