Here in the UK it feels like we’ve been waiting a long time for spring this year! But now that sunnier days are here, thoughts naturally turn to clearing out the old and bringing in the fresh and new.
Are you looking at your website and thinking it could use a sweep through, but not sure what needs attention? Here’s a quick look at some important things to check.
Change the welcome mat so they know they’re in the right place
When visitors arrive, does the site show them clearly who you are and what they can expect to find inside?
That first screenful is critical in drawing in cautious passers-by, which you do with a combination of things – title, subtitle, the navigation menu text, the page heading, images…
Although that might sound like a lot to think about, the key for most of us is to keep it simple and effective. Try to put yourself in the position of a visitor who doesn’t already know you. Can they see what the name of the site is? If there’s important text or a logo, can they make it out clearly? (For instance, watch out for text on busy background images.)
Bear in mind that visitors are primed to click away again if they don’t get the right signals. You can’t rely on them scrolling down the whole page to get your message if they don’t get a basic welcome at first glance.
Weed the paths so they can find their way around
Can visitors find the way to the content they’re interested in?
This is about your structure and navigation. It especially applies if you’ve had a site for a while, and been using it alongside being busy while finding your way – they tend to grow organically, and bits get slotted in here and there.
It needs to be very clear how visitors can answer the questions they arrive with; and it’s important not to overload them with options.
For service-type microbusinesses with small ‘brochure’-style sites, the main areas are pretty standard: home, about, services/working together, and maybe a couple of others. Use the labels people expect to see, and put info in the sections where people will expect to find it. Don’t rely on them exploring the whole site and putting the pieces together.
Prune the ivy to let your text breathe
Is the visitor greeted with a dense wall of text? That looks like hard work, and most people don’t have that commitment. Reader-friendliness (or not) is part of the message your site is giving about you.
On your main pages, like Home and About, go through and break the text into shorter paragraphs covering separate ideas, and maybe even cut bits out if they’re not working any more. Then your visitors have a nice clear journey to the helpful content you want them to take away. (See my post on writing for the web for more help on this.)
A new coat of paint for a better feel
When visitors first look at your site, does the visual design represent someone they want to talk to? That could stretch to all sorts of things like colours, fonts and layout. The questions here are whether it’s a clear and pleasant reading experience, and whether it represents who you are and your distinctive approach (your personal branding).
This might take you into small changes like tweaking the colour of specific elements like headings, or taking the side column off some pages to feel less cluttered. Or you might make a bigger change like replacing a WordPress theme that you know isn’t working for you.
(Fortunately changing a theme just takes a click, but choosing and customising one can be more involved. If you’ve had a theme for several years, do review it – visual trends have changed, and you absolutely do want it to work well on phone and tablet screens.)
It helps if you’ve done a bit of work on what your personal branding messages are – not just the things you say explicitly but the underlying impressions you want to give.
If you’re interested in the impressions that different colours can give, check out this post on colour psychology.
If you’re thinking about sprucing up your site, I hope these notes gave you some ideas on what to look at. If you’d like more help, hop over to the You and your message section.