21 Oct 2021 By: Ray Ko
If you walked into a cluttered store with questionable cleanliness, broken items scattered about and advertised sale prices that somehow disappeared at the register, what would you do? Most likely, you’d turn around and walk out. Then, you’d tell your family, friends, coworkers, and anyone who would listen to NEVER shop there.
Believe or it or not. A poorly executed website can have the exact same effect. Your website is your virtual “store.” Whether you use it to sell your products or simply to showcase your brand and services, any type of unnecessary content, design flaws, slow load speeds or outdated information will compel visitors to promptly hit the back button. Then, their fingers will do the walking right on over to a competitor’s website.
Your website speaks volumes about your brand, and it doesn’t mince words. It takes about 50 milliseconds for a visitor to form an opinion about your page. Can’t imagine what 50 milliseconds feels like? It’s faster than the blink of an eye, which clocks in at about 100 milliseconds. So, it’s key to make a good first impression no matter which page visitors land on.
In other words, a polished website can go a long way in establishing trust with customers. Your website should be one that engages customers immediately and provides a great customer experience throughout. It should convey information (visual and written) that is not only compelling, but also accurate and true. The sentiment at its most basic: if you can’t be trusted to put together a factual, up-to-date, customer-friendly website, how can your brand be trusted at all?
Here are some rules of thumb to keep in mind to ensure your website is polished and ready for viewing.
It’s About Them, Not You
When you’re marketing something near and dear to your heart (or wallet), it can be tempting to talk about how fantastic it is. Resist the temptation! If you find that your content leads with “I/me/we,” it’s time for a refresh. Your site should highlight what your product or service does for the customer. a “you/your” approach with a bit of “us” as a collaborative flourish. Your goal is to make sure your customers can see themselves in your content—their hopes, expectations and challenges—and how your product/service addresses them.
An uncluttered site will naturally make your product or service the visitor’s main focus. It will also make it easier visitors to find the information they’re looking for. According to Google research, if the visual complexity of a website is high, users perceive it as less beautiful.
We’ve already touched on what happens when your site doesn’t make a good impression quickly. If your site is the online equivalent of a teenager’s messy bedroom, it’s time for a thorough cleaning. And don’t neglect less-trafficked pages. If a visitor is going down the wormhole on your site, it should be an attractive wormhole.
Give Them What They Expect To Find
This goes beyond content itself. Prototypicality—a fancy word for “it looks like other sites”— is arguably even more important, because that’s one of the two factors behind the previously mentioned “50 milliseconds” statistic. Not only did Google research reveal that if the visual complexity of a website is high that users will perceive it as less beautiful, but it also revealed that if the design is unfamiliar (i.e. if the site has low prototypicality) users will judge it as even uglier.
To combat this, it can be helpful to think of your website as a “product” in and of itself. Favorable product expectations boost subjective usability ratings. In other words, if visitors expect your website to look and function a certain way and it does, they’ll think more highly of your brand.
Keep Everything Current
Ever wonder where “bait and switch” comes from? Who knows, really (though I do like the Wikipedia entry attributing it to 1617’s “The Book of Swindles”). Nonetheless, bait and switch as we know it means advertising or promising one thing then delivering another. So, to avoid being classified as a greasy used car salesman, pricing, features, quality, capabilities, products and services all have to be delivered exactly as advertised on your website.
This is why keeping your content current is non-negotiable when it comes to building trust with your customers. They value their money, which means they won’t like it when they find out your product or service doesn’t match up to what was promised. They also value not being taken for a fool, which means you should keep it real when it comes to product descriptions, customer validation and the like.
Provide 3rd-Party Validation
It’s one thing for you to talk about how well your product/service meets your customers’ needs. It’s quite another when customers vouch for the value your brand brings into their lives. That third-party validation adds credibility to your site and your brand. The statistics that back this sentiment are ridiculously high. For instance, 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, and 72% say positive testimonials and reviews increase their trust in a business. (BigCommerce)
Case studies are important, too, especially as prospective customers start to narrow their search. Your website should include a page dedicated to testimonials and case studies. Be sure to highlight what customer need you met (the challenge), why they chose you (the solution) and how well it worked (results).
Make Finding Your Way Around A Breeze
This harkens back to “give them what they expect to find.” People have expectations about how a website works—navigation from the top left, shopping carts on the top right, etc. Your website should adhere to the norms. It should also use the simplest language possible in all the navigation features.
While it’s tempting to use cute terms for common things—think “our stuff” instead of “products”—they only serve to make your visitors work harder than they have to. Ornate and obscure language is for the classic novels. Keep it simple. Also, make finding their way around a breeze. If a visitor who moves from page to page and can’t figure out how they got there, they’re likely to abandon your site altogether.
Make Getting In Touch Easy
This should go without saying, but since many sites make it almost impossible to talk to a human, I’ll say it. Humans are inquisitive creatures. They’re going to have questions. Why in the world would you miss that opportunity to make a connection?
It may not be possible for you to get back to customers immediately 24/7, but your site should be clear about your availability and equally clear about your response time. Then, keep your promises.
Chatbots are becoming more advanced every day, and may be able to pick up some of the slack. Chatbots can handle some of your more straightforward inquiries when you can’t. 37% of people will use a customer service ‘bot to get a quick answer in an emergency. (Drift)
The Bottom Line
The days of being able to get by with a rudimentary website are long gone. Your website conveys volumes about your brand, including whether or not people trust you to deliver what you say you will. An investment in a polished website is an investment in your future.