Website Essentials

Website Essentials

Website Essentials

15 Essential Features EVERY website needs

Website creation services such as Wix and Squarespace have made it easier than ever to create your own website without any technical knowledge.  And content management systems (CMS) such as Wordpress have made it super-easy to launch a new site.

Almost 150,000 websites are created each day, adding to the ONE BILLION sites already in existence.

Launching a website is no longer reserved for the technical minded.  Everyone's at it.

Although you don't need to be a techie to put together a website, we don't all have advanced skills.  Often, important features are forgotten or omitted, and the business owner is left scratching their heads wondering why their website doesn't perform well.

With that in mind, let's have a look at fifteen of the most important features that every successful website must have.

1. WELL DESIGNED LOGO

A logo is so much more than a small design used on your marketing materials.  It defines who you are, and what you stand for.

A badly-designed logo is not something you want to be remembered for, or associated with.

Do yourself a favour: budget for a professional designer.  You can't do this alone because there's more that goes into the design of a logo than you could begin to imagine.  A professional logo designer will go through your marketing plan with the goal of understanding your target market, and will produce a logo that matches the demographic and psychographic makeup of your audience.

In short, don't skimp on your logo.

2. TAGLINE

A good tagline (slogan) can reinforce your unique selling point within a few words.

Don't make the tagline cryptic, or worse - too clever to understand. On the other hand, don't be bland and vague.

If you've ever created an 'Elevator Pitch' for your company, then you'll know how important it is - and how powerful it can be.

Taglines are a single sentence that differentiates your brand within a few words.

Here are some good examples:

  • YouTube: Broadcast Yourself
  • Slashdot: News for nerds. Stuff that matters
  • Lifehacker: Don't live to geek, geek to live!

Make your tagline as prominent as you can. If possible, make it part of your logo (appearing underneath the logo).

3. ADVANTAGES/BENEFITS/FEATURES

Look at your home page (and product pages) to see if you're making the mistake of omitting the advantages and benefits of your product or service.

Each visitor that arrives on your site has a specific need in mind.  They want to solve a problem that exists.  The first thing they'll want to know is, does this product solve my problem.  That means the first thing you should write about is how your product solves their problem.  

Don't launch straight into the features, because to sell products, you first need to solve their problem.

Venture capitalist Dina Routhier sums it up:

I think the most common thing that pegs an entrepreneur as an amateur is when they come in and immediately start talking about their amazing new technology, and forget to start the discussion with, 'What big problem in the market am I trying to solve?' If they don't start with the problem, then I know they are [amateurs].

Where do you start?  By addressing their primary concern - what's in it for me?.  Start by selling the benefits and advantages of your product, then move onto the features.

4. TRUST INDICATORS

When people use a website, they're affected by subconscious 'signals' that determine how much they trust the website.

Trust is earned by displaying elements throughout the website, especially on pages that require some sort of interaction, such as checkout pages, contact forms and data collection pages.

Here are nine simple buy highly effective ways you can build trust:

  1. Testimonials - See below
  2. Photographs of you (or your team)
  3. Prominent contact details
  4. Links to social media profiles ('social proof')
  5. Client logos
  6. Impeccable spelling and grammar
  7. Demonstrate your expertise
  8. TRUSTe / VeriSign logos (for secure websites)
  9. Awards, major achievements and business milestones

5. HEADLINES

Headlines are one of the most neglected parts of online content, yet they are one of the most important.

Direct marketing genius David Ogilvy once stated, On average, five times as many people read the headlines as those that read the body copy.  

In case you don't know, David Ogilvy is often referred to as the father of advertising. What he doesn't know about content isn't worth knowing.  So, it makes sense to follow his advice, and put some effort into creating a catchy, persuasive headline for each of page on your website.

Before we look at why headlines are so important, let's discover why.  Headlines are the first words that your website visitors will read.  According to Copyblogger, on average 8 out of 10 people will read your headline, but just 2 in 10 will read the rest.  

Create a compelling headline and more people will read the accompanying copy.  It's as simple as that.

6. NAVIGATION

A clear, intuitive navigation menu is essential, whether your website is a few pages or a few hundred pages.  

Your navigation is the backbone of your website's usability, so it's important that it is laid out in a logical order.

To create a simple but effective navigation menu, break your content into logical categories, ensuring that each page of your website appears under the most appropriate heading.  For example, a page about 'blue widgets' would appear in the 'widgets' section of your navigation.  Individual pages such as your 'contact' or 'about us' page should have their own link in the navigation.

Up until a few years ago, usability experts told us to avoid dropdowns in navigation menus. But, the tide is turning. Dropdowns are an acceptable feature because most users are now familiar with them. Dropdown menus enable users to see (and go to) the destination page from any page on your website.

Navigation menus should be as simple as possible.  Over complicating menus with too many choices can hinder and confuse the user. Don't be tempted to use your navigation menu to link to every page on your site.  Stick to top-level pages and categories as much as possible.

Not only will an effective navigation help your users, it will also help with your search engine optimisation too.  It will make it easier for the search engine robots to categorise information and understand the architecture of your website.

7. CLEAR CONTACT DETAILS

An easy-to-locate phone number can boost conversions on your website.  Phone numbers provide reassurance to your visitors that they can call you. It also validates (at least in their mind) that you are a real business. 

Some websites don't need a phone number, of course. Sites that are informational or are brand-building have no need to display phone numbers. But if you have a business that sells a product or service, then it is recommended that you display it - prominently, in a position where it is easily found.

The best place is the top-right hand side of every page, although users also tend to look at the footer of the page for contact information.

To build additional trust, display your physical address, phone number and email address.  If you want to go one step further to help your visitors, list your business hours too, and a handy 'directions to our office' note.

Tip: make your business phone number 'click-to-call'.  Many people will be visiting your website from their smartphone, so converting your phone number into a clickable number will be appreciated.  To do this, just use the tel: format.  Here's the example code:

01234 123123

8. TESTIMONIALS

Testimonials are a powerful way of getting visitors to put aside any concerns they may have about you, because you're showing them that they're in good company.

A survey by BrightLocal revealed that 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

Testimonials remain key influencers in determining buying decisions. Dig out testimonials from previous customers, and get them posted strategically on your website.

If you have any large household brands, famous people or influencers as customers, get some testimonials and publish them too.

9. MOBILE FRIENDLY ('RESPONSIVE')

Smartphone usage is increasing year-on-year, so going 'responsive' is an essential task.  As many as 60% of my visitors are browsing using their mobile phone, so it's important that my websites cater for smartphone users.

If you want to find out how many of your own visitors are using a smartphone or tablet device to view your website, most good analytics packages will show you.  In Google Analytics...

Select AUDIENCE > MOBILE > OVERVIEW

Given that Google *may* give a ranking boost to websites that use responsive design, there's every reason to ensure that mobile users are part of your strategy.

10. CALLS TO ACTION

Unless your website has no specific purpose, then there's probably an end-goal that you would like your users to achieve.  Perhaps the goal is to sell a product, submit an enquiry, watch a video or download a white paper.

Whatever that end goal is, you need to steer your users down the path towards that goal.  You do so by placing 'calls-to-action' in strategic places on your website.

These calls-to-actions are usually buttons that ask the customer to take a specific action, such as buy or download.

There are several important points to remember:

Make call-to-action buttons prominent.  Use a contrasting colour, make the text larger than your body text, and leave plenty of white space surrounding it.  IF your visitors are distracted when they hover their mouse is over your ‘Buy Now' button, then you risk losing the sale.  Ensure your visitor's focus is where you want it to be by removing elements that may be competing for their attention.

Place them strategically in the path of the user.  Once at the top of the page, once at the bottom of the page (immediately after the body content finishes), and in the middle of the text, if it is appropriate to do so.

Avoid generic phrases such as 'Click Here' or 'Send'.  Use an verb and/or action word in the button text, which will encourage your readers to act.  For example, rather than Click Here, consider something like 'Register for your FREE trial', which explains the benefits of clicking the button.

Your call-to-action buttons need to stand out from the clutter, and be immediately obvious.

Choose a contrasting colour for your CTA buttons, and make the button text larger than the surrounding text. Leave lots of white space around the button to increase the prominence.

Now, view the page on your PC from the other side of the room. Is the button prominent from 15 feet away? If not, make it bigger, and increase the white space until the button is clear.

By doing so, you'll increase the clickthrough rate on that button, and will help increase conversions.

Remember, even if you see an increase in clickthroughs, continue to run split A-B tests with different colours, text sizes, wording. You can always squeeze out a higher clickthrough rate by experimenting different variations.

Don't fall into the trap of putting too many call-to-action buttons on page that lead to different destinations, which can disorientate your reader.

Ideally, each web page has a single purpose (lead capture, a sale, or a download), so stick to this. If you want your customer to buy a product then don't also confuse them by placing an additional call-to-action button for something unrelated to this task, unless of course it has a direct impact on the user journey, such as a download to a sales brochure.

Prominence

Your call-to-action buttons need to stand out from the clutter, and be immediately obvious.

Choose a contrasting colour for your CTA buttons, and make the button text larger than the surrounding text. Leave lots of white space around the button to increase the prominence.

Now, view the page on your PC from the other side of the room. Is the button prominent from 15 feet away? If not, make it bigger, and increase the white space until the button is clear.

By doing so, you'll increase the clickthrough rate on that button, and will help increase conversions.

Remember, even if you see an increase in clickthroughs, continue to run split A-B tests with different colours, text sizes, wording. You can always squeeze out a higher clickthrough rate by experimenting different variations.

Wording call-to-action buttons

If you're using the phrase Click Here on any of your call-to-action (CTA) buttons then changing them to something more persuasive can have a dramatic affect on your clickthrough and conversion rates.

Along with the prominence of the button itself, one of the most important factors in successful CTA buttons are the words used.

CTA buttons need to be compelling enough for people to click - and Click Here isn't one of them. The most effective way to compel a visitor to click a button is to describe exactly what they'll be getting once they click it.

Think about it. What would you rather click on - a button that says, Click Here, or another that says, Download your FREE report now.

Keep your CTA button phrase short and straight to the point, in less than 5 words.

When deciding what text to use, think about how 'action-oriented' the phrase is. The words 'Get' and 'Download' are very effective action verbs. Stay away from words such as 'Submit' or 'Sign Up', and replace them with words such as 'Get' or 'Try'.

Ask yourself what your visitor will be achieving from clicking on the button, then phrase it to take this into account. For example if you want the user to fill in a form to compare quotes, consider using 'Get my quotes now'.

Strategic positioning

Call-to-action buttons are an incredibly powerful way of getting your website visitors into your sales funnel process.

Typically, these buttons often lead to page that illicits a response from the visitor, often a contact form where they fill in their details. It's this resulting page that turns a browser into a customer, so these call-to-action buttons are incredibly important to your conversion rate.

Look at your website content and place these buttons in strategic areas that the reader naturally feels compelled to take the next step. For example, at the end of a product specifications, a feature, or product photos. Think about where your visitors are most inclined to click towards your sales funnel, and place them there.

A high-converting website will also have at least one call-to-action button placed 'above-the-fold', i.e. the area of the screen that requires no scrolling.

11. BUYING RESOURCES & GUIDES

As I have already stated previously, more than 90% of your visitors won't buy. They are not yet in 'buying mode'.

That doesn't mean they won't be your future customer, though.  Capturing their information when they're early on in their buying cycle can give you a future-proof list of customers.

Help them and entice them back to you when the time is right by providing useful resources and content about your product/service.

People don't just come to your website to buy.  They come to research, to find answers, and to learn.  By providing extra information, resources, downloads and tools you are helping them with their buying process.  

If you are thinking about your visitors travelling through your website in a linear pattern, for example, Home Page > Product Page > Basket > Checkout, then you're thinking about the minority of your visitors.  Most users want to satisfy a number of questions before they commit.

Remember, people use websites in different ways, and need different information.  Provide that information by helping them through their buying cycle, from start to finish, no matter where they are in that cycle.

If you are educating people, then you are subconsciously encouraging them to trust you.  And trust, as we all know, sells products.

12. TIMELY, RELEVANT CONTENT

When potential customers arrive on your website, the chances are that they're also comparing your product/service to others, too.

They want to know that you have a vested interest in your products, your business, and your customers. One way of doing this is to ensure that you have relevant, up-to-date content on your site.

Not only does fresh content help with the search engines, it will instil trust in your brand. A business that looks after their website has more chance of gaining new customers than one whose website is stale and neglected.

A business that looks after their website has more chance of gaining new customers than one whose website is stale and neglected.

Not only does fresh content help with the search engines, it will instil trust in your brand.

13. PRIVACY POLICY

If you collect any sort of information on your website then a privacy policy is needed.

A privacy policy is a legal document, and it outlines how a website visitor's personal information is going to be used.  

In some industries, a privacy policy is a legal requirement. Any website that collects any form of information from your visitors will benefit from having one.  

A good privacy policy generator is available on Shopify: https://www.shopify.co.uk/tools/policy-generator. If you aren't interested in the free trial of Shopify, remember to opt out.

14. LINKS TO SOCIAL PAGES

As well as providing a platform for discussion between you and your customers, there are many benefits of linking to your social media profiles.

It's a great way to learn more about your target market, which can help you refine your marketing campaigns and understand their motivations, desires and concerns.

It also helps you to market your product or service to a huge amount of potential customers. Create useful, relevant and timely content, which can be shared and discussed, giving you valuable exposure to new customers.

15. FAST, RELIABLE HOSTING

You get just one chance to make a good impression, and if your website is slow, unresponsive or unavailable, then you are going to lose customers.

A poor server can hurt you in many ways.  As well as turning off your visitors, it can also affect your rank in the search engines.

Hosting your website on a good server doesn't need to cost the earth.  But, don't pay pennies, because you need a decent infrastructure that is fast and reliable.  

BONUS: FEATURES YOU DON'T NEED

Now we've looked at all the minimum features that every website should have, now let's take a look at what you don't need:

Flash.  Get rid of anything on your website that's made with Flash.  A once-popular feature on many websites, there are many reasons why it needs to go.

Sliding carousels.  If you have a bunch of pretty scrolling pictures, realise that even though they look cool, usability tests revealed that just 1% of users use them, rendering them obsolete, and taking up valuable space.

Autoplaying music or video.  These will do nothing but irritate your users.  Let your visitors decide if they want to watch/listen.

Animated clipart.  No explanation needed.

Jargon.  If you're trying to impress your users with your technical knowledge by using overly complex jargon, the only people you'll be impressing is yourself.

Any other bells-and-whistles that don't add value.  Remember, you're not trying to impress your visitors by showing them you can code rabbits jumping about on your site.  Avoid distracting your users with unnecessary features.

Site speed

It's a fact - websites that have slow loading times have higher bounce rates and lower average time on page. Web giant Google says so.

For a business owner, it's incredibly easy to forget these facts when you're building a website. We want huge images, we want bells and whistles, and we want features galore. But this comes at a huge price, especially if you have something to sell through your website.

According to Kissmetrics, 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in two seconds or less. And as many as 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than three seconds to load.

Go through your website and test the loading times. Try to aim for a minimum of five seconds - better still three seconds, if you can (it's not easy). You'll find that increasing page loading times you'll also convert more visitors into customers.

What's more, Google has indicated that page speed is one of the signals used by its algorithm to rank pages. Therefore, by increasing your page speed, you're not just helping your visitors, you're also helping your site to rank higher in Google.

  • Why? 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less (Kissmetrics)
  • 40% abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load
  • Page speed is a signal used by its algorithm to rank pages.
  • Test loading times.  Try for a maximum of 5 seconds

Crawlable

SSL

Responsive on Mobile / Tablet

Use varvy.com to check any issues

  • Contact us page
  • Some visitors sit on the fence. It's the last chance you'll have to reassure them you're the one
  • Contact us page should:
    • Give reassurance to the visitor that you're genuine
    • Show people how approachable you are
    • Manage their expectations - explain what happens after they contact you
    • Demonstrate your expertise and your credentials
  • Optimising your contact us page:
    • Include your full contact details including address, phone number & email address.  It shows you're genuine.
    • Explain “why” your visitors should get in touch.
    • Be friendly.  Use natural, conversational language that talks their language.
    • Manage their expectations by telling visitors what happens after they get in touch.
    • Add a picture of the person who will be responding to customers.
    • Find out the #1 concern that people have, and address it to reduce friction.
    • Give people options to reach you by email, phone, letter or social media.
    • Publish your email address. Don't hide it invisibly in your forms. 
    • Keep contact us forms simple and don't require too much validation.
    • Include ‘trust logos' such as accreditations, SSL certificates, guarantees, client logos etc.
    • Add a couple of client testimonials.
  • Test your page on different devices.

Talk about You, not We

A few weeks ago I noticed a neglected website in my portfolio. I hadn't updated it for years. It was converting around 1.5% of its visitors. In other words, less than 2 in 100 visitors turned into customers.

I took a quick look at what it was saying on the home page.

We blah blah blah, use us to blah blah blah. We blah blah. We're so blah (you get the message). It was like something out of a 1980's double-glazing flyer that drops on your doorstep.

Anyway I quickly realised that it was talking more about us/we than you.

I stripped out everything that mentioned us or we, and replaced it with text that focused on you (the customer) and the benefits for them. Took me about an hour.

Guess what?

The website never has been a huge money-spinner (terrible niche), but just from those changes alone it went from a 1. 5% conversion rate to a 3% conversion rate.

Sounds rubbish, right?

But what it did was to effectively double the profit overnight. 1.5% to 3% is doubling your money, and it's DEAD EASY. Just align your message to your customer's motivations.

The key takeaway here is that it is more profitable to write content that focuses on your target market's needs, rather than the boring stuff about your business that no one wants to read.

Can you double the money in your bank by doing the same?

Optimising your 'Contact Us' page

Here's a quick (30 min task) and easy (especially if using a CMS) way to get more leads/enquiries from your website.

Go and have a look at the Contact Us page on your website.

Now imagine you're the perfect customer.

Does your Contact Us page inspire you to pick up the phone, send an email or fill in a form? Or does it leave you feeling a little underwhelmed?

I thought so.

Most Contact Us pages are missing a huge opportunity to capture extra customers by missing vital information. Most of them just say Fill in the form and we'll get back to you.

That's the equivalent to handing out business cards at a networking event but walking away without introducing yourself.

Have a look at your website stats. See how many people visit your Contact Us page? I bet it's more than you thought. It's a page that often gets ignored, but in reality it's incredible important.

So, here's a little task if your Contact Us page falls a bit flat:

  1. Add a paragraph that tells people why you're the best solution.
  2. Add your photo of YOU or your team (make it more human).
  3. Tell people what happens after they contact you (manage their expectations).
  4. Rewrite any content on that page in a conversational tone. Forget fluffy marketing hype - imagine you're chatting over coffee. Put some personality into your writing.
  5. Add a couple of testimonials for reassurance and trust.

I guarantee that the 30 mins you spend doing this will increase your customer base.

Content is King

Eradicate typos

If you don't take the time to make sure your products and brand isn't portrayed professionally, then your visitors will lose trust in your business.

In 2011 an internet entrepreneur called Charles Duncombe reported that a single spelling mistake can cut online sales in half. He found that on one of his websites (tightsplease.co.uk) the revenue was twice as high after a spelling mistake was corrected.

Many people will turn a blind eye to small typographical errors on a website. But there are plenty more that are influenced by typos, assuming that a lack of diligence may also mean the retailer responsible doesn't care about their products.

If you've written your web content yourself and are unsure of your English skills, then get someone else to read it for you and report any errors they may find. They might save you lost revenue.

Don't use jargon

When writing content for your website, it's tempting to show off your skills by using complex jargon to impress your readers.

However, it has the opposite effect. Users are put off by industry jargon, fancy words, or sentences that are too full of 'fluff'.

Remember to consider the range of people who will be using your website, and write for the lowest common denominato

Tools:

  • Test My Site: https://testmysite.withgoogle.com/intl/en-gb
  • Mobile Site Speed: https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/feature/mobile/


Chris Haycock Signature

About Chris Haycock


Chris Haycock, Author

Chris is the Managing Director of digital media company CliqTo Ltd. He is responsible for creating a portfolio of more than 30+ online businesses that attract almost 1 in 6 of the UK population. Chris also works as a consultant, offering a range of services that are designed to help businesses improve and refine their digital strategies.

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  1. Chris Haycock Chris Haycock says:

    I might know my stuff, but for every opinion there's probably a different one. If this tutorial has caused an avalanche of thoughts running through your head that you want to share with me (and other readers), here's your chance.

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