Is Your Website Hurting Your Credibility?

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What if your Inside Reality was just awesome but your Outside Perception was terrible? What if you had a great product or service but your image and your marketing strategy sucked?

Tom Peters said once that the designer should seat right next to the CEO. If you have a great product or service that doesn’t look good, then you got nothing. When was the last time you took a good look at your site, blog or even your business card and you asked yourself if that piece of marketing really represents yourself in front of your target?

I can tell you right now that having this problem is a lot better than having an awesome Outside Perception and a terrible Inside Reality, at least you can do something about it and you don’t need to rethink your whole business.

It’s no secret that today, your website is the single most important piece of marketing you can have and because of that, you should make sure is not out there hurting your credibility rather than attracting more people. I have put together a list of items you should consider about your website to make sure this puppy is working for you and not killing you…

Objective

Yes, before you go on to build your site or give it a massive makeover, you should be clear about the objective of having one. Are you trying to convert visits into sales, generate a prospect, sign up for something, sell advertising? If you think about it, that objective should be very clear because you know your business and you know exactly what you’re trying to do, the point here is that your site should be based on it.

The days of just having a presence online are over. Websites are supposed to do something, if you are trying to provide content that eventually will move people to inquire about your services and that’s not happening then having a website is pointless, and if your site is also driving people away from you then it should be taken down. Now.

Usability

krug What do you want people to do when they visit your site? Is that clear to your visitors or are you just hoping they figure it out? Is the site simple enough that your message doesn’t get lost in the clutter? Is it conventional so the user knows where things are or do they need to figure out the navigation too?

The truth is that if your visitor doesn’t understand what he/she is supposed to do in a matter of seconds, I can assure you the back button will be clicked sooner that you think. No second chances. I don’t have time to find things on your site.

There is a great book about web usability called “Don’t Make Me Think” by Steve Krug that talks about all these things and a lot of common sense. A great title too.

Eliminate all unnecessary content, I know it’s hard.

Design

design Guess what happens when I visit a website for the first time and I find clutter, a bunch of different fonts and colors… you got it. Bad design hurts your credibility, sometimes to the point that is better not to have a website, it’s like no credit is better than bad credit.

Design, not only for web, should be an essential part of your business. Through design you are representing yourself out there. Imagine if you didn’t care about accounting or administration.

Did you know that when you produce a TV commercial, you need to follow the station guidelines in order to be aired? The Internet doesn’t have that, my uncle can decide to put something out there today and nobody can stop him. The point here is not that you build something beautiful following the latest trends in web design, just that you are represented accordingly. If you don’t have the resources, you should hired a designer.

Keep it simple, a nice scheme of 2 or 3 colors and 2 fonts that go well together, nothing crazy, unless you are building the first online flea market. Once you have an image for your brand, then you should keep it consistent. If the site and the Twitter account look completely different, you’re not even sure if it’s the same guy anymore.

Connectivity

The other day I had a person asked me this: Why am I going to tell people to connect with me on Facebook and other sites, aren’t I trying to bring the traffic to the site and now I’m sending them away… Not really. People are not going to visit your site every day even if you have good content. I love Zen Habits but I don’t visit it every day, I follow Leo Babauta on Twitter or Tumblr and that not only reminds me but he’s also telling me that he just posted his latest article about something cool, guess what? He pulls me back…

You need to be connected. Sometimes I see that people instead of commenting on my blog they do it on my Facebook wall, the point is that they are getting my content and at that point, analytics are secondary.

Technology

Today you have access to the latest technology, I’m not talking about fancy, just the necessary tools that is going to make your life easier and make you look good at the same time. Believe it or not, technology can make you look bad. I’ll give you an example, Blogs and RSS feeds killed newsletters like 5 years ago, I mean there is no need for it. I recognize that in some cases they might be necessary, but if you are going to run a newsletter, at least don’t run a dinosaur like Constant Contact, there are new ones out there… sorry, I had to say it.

Use Of Media

Photography, video, audio, all kinds of media. Seth Godin doesn’t use any of this stuff you say… yeah, and The Stones probably don’t need to go on tour to sell millions of whatever they want to sell. These formats keep users on your site longer than just text, they engage. That’s the same reason why tumblelogs are so popular, they make super easy for you to share all kinds of media.

Just be aware, before you start grabbing content from everywhere, you should know a little about licensing, Creative Commons and all that stuff. Most likely you will find great stuff and all you need to do is give credit.

Metrics

Are you tracking your traffic? You can get a lot out of those fancy graphics. Don’t just look at how many visits you had, pay attention to how long are your visitors staying at your site, the bounce rate, in what page are people usually leaving your site, etc.

You don’t need anything fancy, Google Analytics is probably more than enough for any size website, unless you’re Coke.

In Other Words…

This is easier than you think, if I only had two words to give you I would say this: Common Sense. Yes, hard to believe but we don’t use it enough and some guys don’t use at all…

One thing you need to remember is that if your prospect comes in your store and he’s not happy, he will have to get back in his car and drive to your competition but online, your competition is right next to you.