Whatever stage your website’s at, and whether you’re a freelancer or a large organisation, it’s important to take a fresh look at it every so often. Looking at each section or page from a users’ point of view can really make a difference to your reach, sales and impact. Here are 8 questions and hacks that will help improve your website.
1. What do your website visitors really want and need from you?
If there’s one thing that will transform your website (and your communications), it’s this. The ‘curse of knowledge’ about our organisation/ services can stop us from seeing things from visitors/customers/stakeholders point of view. The good news is, if you keep on coming back to this question, you can retrain your instincts.
If you already carry out research or regularly ask for feedback, then make include questions about your website. Even better, carry out some user experience testing where you watch how people use your website. Choose at least one person from each of your key audiences.
If you have a communications strategy you’ll find all of this a lot easier. You’ll have thought about your audience segments, their motivations and concerns, and the key messages you can use in your website. If you work in music education, community music, youth music, or music therapy – I’ve created a communications strategy online training course specifically for you.
2. Is it clear from your homepage who your website is for and how you solve their problems?
The main purpose of a home page is to confirm to people that you can help them, and send them to the relevant information. Every search comes from a problem, eg ‘How can I …’, ‘Where can I find …’ ‘What do I need to know about’, ‘How/where/when can I see/do/experience …’, ‘I want to …’.
Nowadays your home page is likely to be visited less than other pages. That’s because people are more likely to find the answer to their problem on specific pages/ posts via social media or in an enews. So the following questions apply to the rest of the pages in your site, just as much as your home page.
3. Is the layout clear and easy to scan so people can see what’s on offer?
People can get easily confused and it just takes one click to lose them. Make sure there’s a hierarchy of information – the most important information (for the visitor) is the most prominent. Remove anything on the home page that isn’t serving a purpose for the visitor, or is a distraction
4. Can people quickly find where to go next: are your navigation buttons the right ones, and in the right place?
Make sure it’s clear for each type of visitor, where they can go next. If you have a lot of different audiences, perhaps even consider naming your main navigation buttons (usually across the top of the website) after each of them, and driving them to a section/ pages that’s just for them, eg Teachers, Parents/ carers, Families, Health professionals, etc.
Try to think of words that are more descriptive or action-oriented than ‘Projects’ ‘Background’, ‘Reports’ or the name of a project. For example, Bristol Plays Music’s navigation buttons include two action words, ‘Learn’ and ‘Teach,’ alongside ‘News’, ‘Events’ and ‘About’. Youth Music has a ‘Do something’ button instead of ‘Donate’ or ‘Support us’ which is far more in line with a range of goals their users might have.
5. Are there any non-essential buttons that you can move into the footer?
Buttons such as ‘Our team’, ‘Media information’ could be removed, and positioned as a hyperlink in the footer of your site. This will leave more room for buttons that help with ‘user goals’, eg ‘Training resources’, ‘Donate’, ‘Subscribe’, ‘Learn’, ‘Events’ or ‘Our impact’.
6. What does my ideal visitor for this section/ page want to get from it?
Most people visiting websites are there for a purpose. Web developers talk in terms of ‘user goals’. Make sure every section/ area is there for a reason, and has content that appeals to those wants and needs. It’s also useful to think about the (emotional) reaction you want this section/ page to prompt, and the response (see 7 below). Think about this as the ‘three Rs’ – reason, reaction and response.
It’s helpful to identify (or create) one or more really important pages/ posts/ resources that are driving traffic to your website (ideally use your website statistics package or Google Analytics). This is called ‘pillar content’ and will help you to help people even more, as well as helping search engines to signpost people to your site.
Group together content (blogs, resources, etc) on particular topics or for particular audiences, either by creating areas in your website, or making sure there are hyperlinks to similar content within your pages. You may even want to take a good look at content you’ve already created, refresh and repurpose it, and pull it together in a new section of your site.
For more about repurposing content read my 10 ideas to help you engage & delight your website, enews and social media audiences. and How to bring more relevant people to your website through content marketing.
7. What do I want them to do next?
You may want them to go to another page, or you may want them to end their visit here. Think about their journey, and what they and you will get from it. Ideally, make sure there’s a ‘call to action’ on each page. In commercial marketing, most website pages aim for ‘conversion’. For example, converting people from visitors to buyers or to enews list subscribers.
Whether you’re selling something or not, it makes sense to try to ‘convert’ people to enews list subscribers so you can keep them informed. They may not be ready to buy, take part, or take action yet … but keeping ‘warm prospects’ informed through enewsletters will mean that when they are, they’ll think of you.
Find out more in ‘How to write an effective enewsletter – and why it’s important to have one’. Make sure you make your sign up offer as appealing as possible. So rather than ‘Sign up to our enews’ give a hint of the benefits to them if they do, eg ‘Get monthly tips, ideas and advice’, ‘Be the first to hear’, etc.
8. How will they find my website/ these pages?
Finally, make sure your headings and copy – particularly on your ‘pillar pages’ – contain words and phrases that people will be typing into search engines to solve their problem/ get the information they’re looking for. For more on this topic, read How to get more traffic to your website and improve your Google ranking.