If you’re blogging on a business website, you want to make the most return on your efforts. Here are 5 tips to help your blog posts or news items hit the mark.
An effective website can be an asset to any business, but many small business websites end up hard to use disasters that never fulfill their potential.
Many business owners see their website as a cost and a necessary evil, but it doesn’t have to be this way.
Videos can be a powerful tool in business websites, but all too often it’s used badly and without thought. Here are some things to consider before you use video on your website.
These days many people’s first impression of your business is your website – and the number one question in their minds is: Can I trust you?
If you’re logging into your WordPress website for the first time in a while, you’ll notice things have changed. Here’s a quick guide to setting things up the way you need them.
The old dashboard, where you ended up immediately after you log in, was looking a little tired, so it’s had some improvements as part of the latest upgrade to WordPress 3.8.
The first thing you’ll notice is that the menu on the left is now black, but that’s just the start.
- A fresh, uncluttered design that is clearer and easier to use
- New typography optimised for desktop and mobile viewing
- Better contrast and higher definition graphics
- A fully responsive (i.e. mobile friendly) admin area
- Further improvements for site administrators
It may come as a shock at first, so the purpose of this post is to help you set up the admin the way you want it.
How to set up your admin colour scheme in WordPress 3.8
The new admin area gives you the option to use any one of eight different colour schemes.
You can stick with the standard black, or go for blue, red, purple or coffee tones. Here’s how to do it.
From the Users menu, select Your Profile. You can also select this from the dropdown in the top right that says Howdy, (Your Name)
Under Personal Options you’ll see an option for Admin Colour Schemes. Click the button next to any colour scheme and you’ll get an instant preview.
Your changes are instant so you don’t need to save the settings.
And that’s it!
A note about WordPress updates
If you have a website with Moghill Web Services, you will find the updates have already been done for you as part of our managed hosting service.
If you manage your own site, or your designer does it for you, we urge you to upgrade as soon as possible. It’s a simple process, as long as you take a back-up before running the updates. If you have any questions or need help, then please contact us.
Why you need to update your WordPress (and its plugins)
See this blog post to find out why you need to keep WordPress up to date.
If you spend any time looking around the web, the chances are you will have come across the latest craze that’s pretty much guaranteed to annoy – or at the very least confuse website visitors: Pop up light boxes, also known as interstitials.
FAQ pages are quite possibly one of the laziest crimes in website usability. If you have one on your site, you need to get rid of it. Here’s how.
Frequently Asked Questions. This is traditionally the place that website owners dump the content they don’t know what to do with – or really can’t be bothered giving it enough thought.
They are about the convenience of the website owner but never, never are they about making things easier for the website visitor, which should always be your focus.
In short the FAQ page is a sticking plaster solution for poor information architecture. In the early days of the web they were useful, but things have moved on and the FAQ page has been left behind.
Take the name: How does a random visitor to your website know whether these questions are asked frequently or not? It’s as if we are expecting visitors to sort out our content for us.
What does FAQ even mean?
Many website visitors don’t even understand what FAQ means, therefore they ignore it. User testing indicates those who do know what it means only ever use it if all else fails.
It’s neither useful nor helpful, unless you’re the person putting the website together. But then you might as well just take all the information from your FAQ page and put it in a new page called Miscellaneous. Or Information. Or even Page.
Website visitors – or to use their proper name: customers – deserve better treatment than this. We should be making it easier for them, not harder.
But FAQ pages are a nightmare, usually presented in a question and answer format that makes them difficult to read or take in.
That’s because everything you find on an FAQs page belongs somewhere else, if only someone would spend the time thinking about where it should be.
If all else fails then make it up
In one large organisation where I worked the various website authors were obsessed with FAQs. Every time a new section was launched, there would be an accompanying FAQ page. Sometimes it would run into hundreds of words, sometimes it would only be a couple of forlorn questions.
My job was (to try) to filter out the worst content before it made it onto the website, so I would always begin by asking if anybody had ever asked any of these ‘Frequently’ Asked Questions.
Nearly always the answer was: ‘No but we had to put something in the FAQ page…. And we must have an FAQ page…’
So these questions were not frequently asked or even asked at all.
And this is often the case as FAQ pages are filled up with imaginary, sometimes off the wall, questions that nobody ever asked. Things like ‘Who built this brilliant website?’
How to get rid of your FAQ page
The secret behind making your website work for your customers – and turning visitors into customers – is in understanding that all web content should be about answering the questions of your website visitors.
Visitors arrive at a website with a task in mind and questions they need answering. These are the real Frequently Asked Questions.
But the answers should not be tucked away and hard to find, they should be obvious and easy to spot: Don’t make your website visitors work for the answers they need.
If your website has an FAQ page start by reviewing it.
Are the questions and answers really things your customers want to know or are the questions just made up? Are some of them so important that they need to be given greater prominence? Should they even be on the website at all?
If the questions/answers are useful to visitors they should be – usually with the other information on the same topic.
Some FAQs may be pointing at a more serious issue – something on your site that is so hard to use that people need instructions. In this case it would be better to look at fixing the original problem than challenging users to work it out with the aid of instructions. Few have the patience to do this.
For example, if one of your FAQs is ‘How do we contact you’ then obviously you need to make it easier for people to find your contact page, or make it better so people don’t have to ask.
And here’s the point: Websites are becoming more customer focussed these days. If your site serves its visitors properly you don’t need an FAQ page.
If you have one you need to question whether your site is serving your customers the best way it can, or whether you are just using your FAQ page as a crutch to make up for poor design.
More Website Sins
Things to avoid saying and doing on your business website.
- Never say ‘Click Here’
- Don’t use ‘Under Construction’ pages
- Why you don’t need an FAQ page
- Why pop-up light boxes are a bad idea
Ever given up on an online transaction – like filling in a form – because it took too long? You and just about everyone else.
Web contact forms play a big part in every day web use. If your business has a website, chances are there is at least one contact form on it.
Many people visit business websites to get a phone number, but others will want to contact you using your form.
But instead of making it easy for people to contact you, that contact form could be acting as a barrier.
Are you asking for too much information?
Often businesses and organisations use contact forms as a way of prioritising how quickly to get back to them – or whether to respond at all.
Sometimes forms ask for totally irrelevant information, or at least information that isn’t needed at this early stage.
But if you want potential new customers to contact you via your website, you need to make it as easy as possible for them, and that means asking as few questions as possible.
You may have to deal with more people you can’t help, but form submissions will rise too, as will the number of conversions.
There have been plenty of studies that back this up.
Why keeping forms short helps sales
Holiday company Expedia discovered it was losing $12 million in sales thanks to one extra form field on their website. The field asked for the visitor’s company and people filled it in wrongly, causing the transaction to fail.
A study by Kevin Hale, co-founder of online forms company Infinity Box Inc showed that site visitors are more likely to fill out shorter forms because they require less effort. The number of questions on a form correlates closely with the rate at which people abandon the form.
And a study by US web company Imaginary Landscape showed how reducing the number of fields in their forms from 11 to four resulted in a 160% increase in forms being submitted and a 120% increase in their conversion rate.
The smaller 4-question form resulted in a significantly higher number and ratio of submitted forms. In addition, the quality of the submissions remained the same, even with the reduction in submitted information.
Also, the quality of submissions stayed the same.
How to keep your website forms short and efficient
Ask for essential information only – only what you absolutely need to progress.
On a simple contact form this often need be no more than a name and a means of contact – an email address or phone number, of preferably both.
Once you have these then it’s all you need, though it helps to have a comments form that people can fill in if they like.
If you are looking to trim an existing form then ask whether everything you are asking for is really necessary for a first contact. Do you really need to ask for company information? You will find it out soon enough.
Six Revisions: 10 tips for optimizing web form submission usability
Smashing Magazine: An Extensive Guide To Web Form Usability
Inman News: Increase online conversion rates
Imaginary Landscape: Contact Form Case Study
Writing for the web is different from any other form of copywriting and needs special attention.
It’s not just a matter of taking your printed promotional material, grafting it onto your website and hoping it will do the job – because it won’t.
And going on at length about what you have to offer and expecting people will read every word will not work either.
Content marketers like to bang on about web copy that is ‘engaging’ and ‘grabs the reader’s attention’, but this is wishful thinking at best.
After all if your customers are on your website you already have their attention: The hard part is keeping it!
How to write website copy that works
So here are five tips to help you make the best of your business website. We’re not intending to cover everything here – just the basics of how to structure and lay out your website content.
1. Make your text easy to understand
Generally, people will arrive at your business website with a task in mind and want to know if you are the people to do it for them.
Also, most people do not sit and read web pages from top to bottom, savouring every word: They scan pages, eyes darting over the words looking for something that matches what they are looking for.
So your writing needs to be clear and concise, without complicated sentences with ambiguous meanings.
You also need to put the most important points at the top: If you keep people waiting to get to the point the chances are they won’t hang around long enough to find out.
Don’t try to be clever and throw in some puns or other ‘witty’ writing. That sort of thing can get old very quickly, but mainly doesn’t help get your message across.
Make it easy for people and they are more likely to stay around long enough to find out if you can help them.
2. Break up your text
Great big blocks of text are hard to scan and therefore hard to read on a website.
Everyone is time poor these days with a thousand different things competing for our attention. This makes us impatient and blocky text will be skipped over rather than read.
So you need to use short, succinct sentences and lots of paragraphs – ideally one sentence – and one idea – to a paragraph.
You’ll be amazed at how much easier a page is to read if it’s been split up properly.
You can also use headings (heading 1, 2, etc, not just bold text and bigger font size) to break things up, and if you use the right, relevant, words these actually help your page get found on search engines.
3. Go easy on the formatting
Another trap that people fall into is to try to emphasise different aspects in their text, but tests have shown the more you try and make something on a web page stand out, the more you end up hiding it!
Bold text, entire words in capital letters and random big text sizes can all be used to add emphasis, but once you start using them it’s difficult to stop.
If you find yourself doing this, then the chances are there is too much irrelevant stuff in your web page and you need to edit the copy down.
Formatting needs to be consistent and sparse. Don’t use italics (hard to read), underlining (easy to confuse with links), stick to a body text size and font and set heading sizes and use bold very, very sparingly.
4. Keep it short and stick to the point
Information overload normally goes hand in hand with trying to squeeze too much into a web page – it’s a very common problem on small business websites.
We often see business owners go into all kinds of detail their potential customers do not need to know. The end result is visitors are bombarded with too much information and end up taking in nothing.
If you want to take your car in to be fixed by a mechanic you don’t want to know what make of spanners he uses, or for that matter anything about his methods. You just need to know that he is competent to do the job and how much it’s likely to cost.
Yet many business websites are marred by the business going on at length about how they do things when potential customers do not need this information.
If you want to make it easy for your website visitors (and that’s the only way they will stay), keep it short, simple and stick to your essential information.
5. Read it – Then cut it! (Then read it again)
If you are expecting others to read your carefully crafted web copy the least you can do is read through it properly before you press the Publish button. Sadly this doesn’t happen.
Everything that goes on your business website should be read by at least two people first, to make sure it makes sense and doesn’t contain grammatical errors. A spell checker is also a must.
If you can’t get someone else to read your copy, then take a break – overnight at least is good – and come back to it with fresh eyes. Sometimes it’s easier to read through copy that has been printed out.
At this point you should be reading with a view to cutting it down by up to a half. And once you’ve cut it you’ll need to read it again.
If this sounds extreme it isn’t – once you get into practice it’s amazing at how much you can lose and every word you remove will be helping to make your copy more concise – and above all more effective.
Concise, SCANNABLE and objective: How to Write for the Web – Neilsen Norman Group
How to write for the web: BBC News School Report
If you want to hide it, emphasize it: Gerry McGovern – New Thinking
If your business sells things in the real world, it’s simple enough to set up an online shop and just sit back and watch the money roll in.
That’s the theory but it rarely works out that way. Here are the main reasons why online shops become online flops.[box type="info"]This post has been updated to reflect changes in UK consumer law introduced in 2014[/box]
We get asked to fix a lot of online shops and nearly always the complaint is the same: No-one’s buying.
Sometimes no-one’s visiting at all, but often when we look at statistics we can see plenty of visitors but few or no sales.
So why does nobody buy?
The answer lies in a combination of factors, assuming you are selling something people want to buy in the first place.
Trust and credibility
These days the average web user is afraid of online fraud and needs reassurance. First of all they need to know who you are: They need your address.
It’s surprising how many shops ignore this basic rule but it’s more important than that – it’s the law in the UK.
If you are UK based and selling online, the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation, and Additional Charges) Regulations 2014 apply to you. These replace the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000, and they are tougher.
Put simply, the regulations make up for the fact that online shop customers can’t inspect your products in person. But they are also a good framework for building a shop that people will trust.
Broadly, this means your shop should:
- Provide clear information about the supplier, the goods or services and the sale in writing
- Give shoppers the right to 14 working days in which to change their minds and return the product (though there are some exceptions)
- Be totally clear on everything, from delivery charges and dates to any other charges you may make
- Provide protection from credit card fraud.
By covering this you are answering questions potential buyers are bound to have, such as:
- When will I receive my goods?
- What if they are not the right size or otherwise unsuitable?
- Am I safe giving my financial information to this shop?
If you are transparent about who you are and provide clear information about delivery, returns and how to contact you then that all helps to build trust. Oh, and it’s mandatory now, though many online shop owners don’t seem to know this.
Of course, the product descriptions must not be misleading!
Another big aspect of trust is the safety in numbers principle – that the shopper will feel safer buying if they know others are. This is sometimes called social proof.
You can help in this way by encouraging customers to review their purchases or write testimonials – but if your shop has a review facility and nobody has reviewed anything then this can have the opposite effect, and draw attention to your lack of customers.
To make this work you will need to give people an incentive to leave reviews or link to you on social media. More about the importance of trust and websites.
Poor promotion and management
Getting the shop right is only part of the job. To get people to buy from you you need to get them to your site.
This means you need to promote your site, whether offline through promotional leaflets and flyers, or online through methods like social media.
Who to target depends on what you sell, just like every shop needs to plan for how to get the visitors and the customers.
But once you have got the customers you need to be able to look after them and that means having the systems in place to staff the shop – answer questions, get the products to the customers and deal with any issues. These things don’t happen by themselves.
In the end your shop is a part of your business, just the same as any other part, and as such it will require some time and effort to run it.
Your shop is hard to use – or doesn’t work at all
If you build a shop, you MUST test it. It’s amazing how many times this is forgotten.
That means doing a test purchase to make sure everything works as it should and that you and the customer will get the right email notifications.
You should also test the contact form to make sure it sends email to the right place. We’ve seen a fair few shops where email enquiries disappear into a black hole – along with potential customers.
Nothing puts customers off faster than a shop with that doesn’t work properly – and that includes broken links.
Nothing except a shop that’s hard to use.
Shops are generally big sites, which means it should be as easy as possible to find what you want. Navigation should be clear, simple and consistent and the search should be effective (often it’s not but nobody tests it).
Checkout and payment
Your customer has decided to buy and so you have to make it as easy as possible for them.
The best shops have a single page checkout where customers enter their details, review their shopping cart and proceed to payment: The worst have three or four pages to wade through, and won’t let you buy unless you set up an account first.
You also need to think about how people want to pay and give them as many options as you can.
Payment by cheque only, for example, is likely to lose you customers – who needs to wait for a cheque to clear before they can have their goods when they bought online in the first place to save time?
If you do nothing else, at least set up payment by PayPal as it is a trusted brand for online payments and offers some protection – and therefore more trust in your shop.
Other online shop ‘fails’
- Text that’s too small to read
- Product images that are too small and/or low quality
- Not enough information about the products
- Not focusing on the products – it’s a shop so the products must be front and centre
- Being so clever or gimmicky that customers can’t use your site
Jeff Bullas blog: 12 Reasons I won’t buy from your website
The Floating Frog: 13 Reasons why your online shop will fail
E-Commerce Rules: Top 5 reasons Why your online shop will fail
The UK Department for Business Innovation and Skills: Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation, and Additional Charges) Regulations (PDF format)
E-Consultancy: Why does customer service suck online?