Erich Stauffer Reviews “6 Website Fixes to Make Now”

This is a review of an article originally published on on April 28, 2009 entitled, “6 Website Fixes to Make Now,” by Mike Werling. This article is for small business owners and entrepreneurs who may or may not have a webmaster or web designer and it assumes that everyone is on the same page that every business needs a website.  Werling’s thesis is that, “Relatively minor issues can drag down your site’s effectiveness,” and that these issues could be costing your business money.  We couldn’t agree more, but lets go down the list.

Website fix #1 is, “Increase the speed.” It’s not about streamlining your site for dial-up users anymore.  Even broadband users can enjoy a fast-loading site while other are increasingly browsing the Internet using their cell phones or PDAs, which also can have slower connections.  Werling writes that technology for tech’s sake is no longer in fashion, which is also Website Fix #3.  Even Flash, which is on 99% of all computers is not as sought after as it once was even, “just a few years ago.”  Werling quotes Ben Rushlo,  director of Keynote Consulting for Phoenix-based Keynote Systems, a service provider that improves online business performance, “People now view [Flash] as annoying. They’d rather read information.” Rushlo recommends using the smallest file sizes for images as well as putting any, “non-essential” pictures towards the bottom of the page to, “help the important information pop up quickly.”

Website fix #2 is, “Write better product descriptions. ” This has mostly to do with e-commerce solutions and shopping cart design, but we can apply some of these suggestions to anything message you are trying to get across online, whether it be selling a product, service, or an idea.  Werling says all descriptions should be, “Succinct and filler-free.”  One of our web designers tells the story of a supervisor at a previous job declaring a, “No Fluff Zone,” for all client-facing material.  Werling agrees, but says it, “Can be difficult because, as Amy Schade says, you need to, ‘Convince [users] the product meets their needs,” but the verbiage. ‘Has to be short and descriptive.’”  Werling goes on to say that, “There’s no salesperson available on a website, so [users],  “Should be able to see a product and know what it does,’ says Schade.” A director at the Nielsen Norman Group in New York City, Schade is also co-author of the second edition of the “E-Commerce User Experience” report.

Website Fix #3 is, “Delete tech used for the sake of tech.” This fix is sort of a combination of fixes 1 and 2.  In order to speed up a website, you get rid of slow-loading flash (Fix #1) and any fluff (Fix #2) that doesn’t really propel your website’s goal forward.  Rushlo says, “[Site owners] need to evaluate if things like music, video and 360-degree views are necessary.”  Werling writes that Schade subscribes to Rushlo’s view, “[Schade] says to beware the trendy and new. Anything business owners jump on because it is the latest and greatest has the potential to backfire, especially if entrepreneurs don’t have the resources to keep up with all of the moving parts of their sites. Things like Facebook pages and video are fun; and social networking is quickly becoming an integral part of many businesses’ marketing platforms, but business owners need to weigh a technology’s popularity against their ability to utilize it fully.”

Website Fix #4 is, “Improve shopping cart and payment options,” but we are going to call this, “Improving the functional design of your website.” Users can be irrational.  The smallest hangup or hint of mistrust can make them change their mind on whether or not they are going to use your product or service.  Yes, shopping carts should have the same look and feel of the rest of the site, but they shouldn’t require setting up an account, for example and of course the site should be trusted and secure.  If you cannot afford a secure certificate for your website or do not want or need to setup that type of environment, Paypal is a perfectly acceptable solution that users trust.  The checkout process or any other primary aim of your website should instill confidence, not regret.  Be as transparent as you can.  Let users know how the information will be used and kept.  This is sometimes called a privacy statement.  Transparency is also a top business trend for 2009.

Website Fix #5 is, “Use unique page titles on every page.” This is more of a SEO tip than anything, but nevertheless true.  SEO stands for search engine optimization.  It’s what you do on your site to make it more appealing to search engines like Google or Yahoo.  Page titles, what is displayed at the top of your browser window, are important and they should be different for every page.  Each page should have a different description, keywords, and H1 tag, just as a baseline.  There are many other things you can do to improve SEO, but changing the titles on your page is one of the most important.  If you use H1 tags, make sure they are only used once per page.  Use H2 or font tags for other titles on your page.  Use a Strong tag around items that are especially important.  Some CMS programs like WordPress default to using Strong instead of Bold tags.

Website Fix #6 is, “Shorten forms.” This dovetails into Website Fix #2 and 4.  Basically,  Werling recommends removing what isn’t necessary. If you don’t need the user’s physical address, for example, don’t ask for it.  Werling writes, “Only ask for the information you really need. ” In summary, business websites should be fast-loading and fluff-free.  Give the user just enough to make a desicion. Remove anything that isn’t necessary in order to not annoy the user and improve speed.  We think this is great advice.  If you would like help making any of the above changes to your company’s website, please contact us.  Erich Stauffer is  an Indianapolis web design firm serving the entire Midwest region and beyond.  We offer web design and development services for all types and sizes of businesses.