So you're giving your website a new look–great! Just don't make these mistakes.
Thinking a website redesign will create new business.
The vast majority of website redesigns commissioned by business owners focus on the website visual layout, graphics and colors. In almost all cases, the executive team spends hours and hours debating things like shades of green only to give each other a round of high-fives after four rounds of approvals and the completion of the redesign. Yet, three months later, there are still no website traffic reports and no additional website visitors. If you want to create new business, then start asking your people questions about how to create new business, not how to redesign the website. And if somebody says, let's redesign the website, then ask them to document how they think it will create more business and hold them accountable for it.
Business owner power phrase: "Who at the table is going to convince me how spending this money will make the phone ring with new business?"
Thinking website redesigns mean you have to trash your current site.
In the late 90s, a technology called "cascading style sheets" (CSS) was developed and is widely used today. It separates what content is on a website, from the graphic look and feel. This is like providing advertisement text, coupon text, and your logo for a newspaper ad, then asking for three different ad designs. They have the same content, but the look is different. Websites are now the same way. If your website is designed using CSS, you can choose to make an investment in just the look of the site, while preserving all your text and the website programming code. This is like getting your house painted because you want it to look better. You don't need to buy a new house. If an outside agency recommends trashing your current site and moving to a new website technology, just make sure you agree with the reasoning.
Business owner power phrase: "Can we just use a graphic artist and change the site's graphic template, rather than paying for a totally new website?"
Thinking you won't be right back where you started six months from now.
Many small business websites were built by some ex-employee's cousin, three years ago. Nobody has any reports and nobody has any website passwords to keep it updated. Now, the small business owner dumps $1,500 to somebody's friend to redesign the website, and six months later, we're right back where we started. The key is to ask your staff (or outsource) to create at least two reports, one that tracks visitors as they arrive on your website, and one that tracks how much of that website traffic turns into sales. You do need some skill sets available to get this going.
For most small business owners, tracking the visitors as they arrive means somebody knows how to generate a report that shows how people found your website. This report indicates the sources of the visits (search engine results listing, online advertisement, Facebook, etc.) and the number of visits. If you know Facebook is driving 12 visits a month to the website, then at least you can make an educated design based on if you want to invest more effort in that area.
Tracking how the website traffic is turning into sales is affected by your type of business. Most small service businesses can benefit greatly by the old telephone receptionist phrase, "Did you find us through the website?" A simple printed sheet at the receptionist's desk can record the phone number, time of the call and the caller's name. At the next sales staff meeting, at least you'll have a list of the leads that were passed along. Just make sure you find some way to be able to connect the site visitors to revenue, like, "We had 1,000 visitors to the site last month that created 15 sales worth a total of $1,500." You don't need a full-proof tracking system; just find one that you can easily start with.
As your business grows over the years, you'll be able to direct one team at driving traffic to the website, and another to just focus on converting website traffic to sales.
Business owner power phrase: "On my sheet from the receptionist, I see a list of eight leads that came in last week from the website. How is each one moving along?"
Now, in this article, I certainly haven't done justice to the influence a website design can have on a website's performance. Great website graphic designers and user interface experts can have a huge impact on converting visitors to sales. But, this influence can only take effect after the visitor has found the website. Most small business owners should be focusing on getting clicks to their website and, only then, should they be worried about converting it to sale. Don't drop all your money to have a great-looking site that nobody visits.
Business owner power phrase: "Forget about how the website looks for a second. Tell me how we're going to generate more site traffic, and how we'll convert it into new business. If a website redesign helps with that, fine."
Mike Martino is a co-founder of Martino Media Group, a small business marketing company focused on helping business owners make informed online marketing choices and to track the revenue generated. Mike's previous work history includes directing Valpak.com, a lead generation website with millions of visitors and over 30,000 small business advertisers annually.