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Is Your Website Design Turning Off Potential Clients? 5 Things to Check

asleep-at-laptopYou’ve heard it a zillion times. Whether you think it’s fair or not, first impressions count.  Especially online.

As a business owner or blogger, you have mere seconds to convince your website visitors that they should spend their precious time reading your content, and that you have something of value to offer.  Need convincing?  Take a minute to read this article on Derek Halpern’s site, Social Triggers:  “The Content is King Myth, Debunked“.  This guy knows his stuff.  Enough said.

So the big question is this: Are your website header, colors and layout causing people to engage or fall asleep (or worse, flee)?  Here 5 questions to ask yourself – and I’ll warn you right now, some of them might sound a bit harsh.  For the next few minutes, it’s all about the tough love.  I’ll apologize ahead of time…

OK, here goes:

  1. Do your website header and graphics look ‘home made’?  ‘Yikes!  Did she actually say that out loud?’  Guilty.  The last thing I want to do is offend anyone, but it’s got to be said – too many of the headers and graphics I see on the websites of people I know are professionals and experts in their field look like they were put together in about 10 minutes.  Some even less.  It’s like, ‘I know I have to do this so I’ll just throw something up temporarily, even though I haven’t a clue about design or how to make this design software do what I want it to’.  Maybe you’re one of those people.  Maybe you’re thinking, ‘Who do you think you are, lady? What’s WRONG with my home-made header?’ Humph!!!’  Truth be told, there may be nothing wrong –  you might have an awesome design eye and your header matches your business perfectly.  If so, congrats!  But your business is worth me potentially offending you a little.  Stop right now and go take a good, detached, critical look at your header through the eyes of your potential customers – what judgements might they be making about you based on what they see?  Ask someone you trust to be kind, but honest, what their first impression is when they look at your website.  Take notes.  If the answer isn’t: ‘Your website makes you look like a sought-after expert in your field, like you’re successful and know what you’re doing, and that your business is important enough to have invested a little bit into the design – I’d trust you and hire you for sure!’ you’ve got some work to do.  It doesn’t need to be fancy or expensive – just an attractive, clean, accurate representation of all your years of experience and wisdom!
  2. Do the colors on your site all work together and create the feeling you want your visitors to feel?  If your profession is environmental consulting but you’ve used hot pink and electric orange in your site background because those are your favorite colors, you may have a problem. Your potential clients in government, engineering, and big industry aren’t likely to take you very seriously. Now if you’re a life or fitness coach, those colors can work great, but…  It pays to do some research into the effects of color on your potential clients.  You don’t want to send them running the moment they land on your site.
  3. Is the photo of you in your header or on your bio page from that photo shoot you had done 10 years ago?  Sadly, this one seems to be rampant.  If you look 10 years younger in your bio pic because you erased all those hard-earned wrinkles in a photo editing program, or you really were 10 years younger when the pic was taken and had a completely different hair style or color, your clients might be a bit taken aback if/when they meet you in person or see you in a video and see what you really look like.  You want to use a relatively recent photo of yourself – connecting with your audience and building trust is so critical to your success, and it’s kind of hard to do that when your pic doesn’t even look like you.  You don’t need to spring for a professional photo (though that’s ideal) – just get a nice, clear, high resolution portrait shot against a light background, one that shows you how you want to be seen by prospective clients, and any web designer will be able to use it to update your web graphics so you shine.
  4. Is there a logical process and flow that your readers should follow when they visit for the first time?  If a potential customer comes to your site and likes the general feel of the place, but doesn’t know what to do next after reading the article that brought them there, you’re probably going to lose them.  You can create these visual flows using colors and custom graphics, widget placement, OR even more simple, create a menu tab title ‘Start Here‘ that lists the top 3 or top 5 steps to working with you, or reaching their goal, etc.  As one of my business mentors says, ‘If you don’t tell people what you want them to do, they won’t do anything.’  I think that about says it all.
  5. Is your site in WordPress?  If you’re still running an old html website, or worse, a Flash site, you’re missing so much opportunity!  Make 2013 the year you get your site switched over to WordPress.  It’s easy to manage, you can do a lot of the work yourself (if you want to), and you’ll never be without support. A good WordPress service provider can get you up and running relatively inexpensively (depending on the number of pages and features on your site, of course).  It’s worth every single penny you invest.  The SEO value alone makes it a no-brainer.

Whew – hope you’re still with me.  As I said, I really don’t want to offend anyone, but your business success is worth me risking your ire. I want you to succeed!

Can a ‘home-made looking’ website be successful?  Absolutely.  There are examples of this all over.  But their content is top-notch, their audiences are huge and for some reason, their sites have succeeded despite their less than attractive appearance.  But for the rest of us, especially those of us selling products or services who aren’t household names, potential clients are making judgements about us and our businesses every single day based on what they see when they visit our websites.

Let’s make 2013 the year you get your site design and graphics to a level that really represents you as a professional, and as a business.  You deserve to shine.

Have you had any results from updating your website graphics?  Do you have a story to share about building your own website and graphics – one where you wish you’d got some help instead of doing it yourself?  If so, please share them in the comments below – we’d love to hear your thoughts.