| Jun 15, 2016 | | 6 min read

3 Tips to Make your Website Actually Useful


Your website is powerful. There is a whole web of information that spans the entire world, and you have your own corner! You can put anything you want in your little corner—from political opinions to cat videos. Of course, with great power comes great responsibility. Along with the ability to post an unlimited number of rainbow cat videos, you also have the power to invite or drive away potential customers. In order to have a customer-friendly website, you must think like a customer. Do the links make sense? Are the colours offensively bright or hard to read? Why did you visit the website in the first place?  Here are three pieces of information website visitors are generally looking for.

1. Where is the business?

Contact information is the most important information you can have on the internet! How else will people find a business? Many well-intentioned websites bury this information way at the bottom, or under a “Contact Us” tab. While this might seem like you’re keeping the page clean and tidy, it actually makes it harder for people to find. Studies show that people will tend to look at the top left corner of your website first, like they’re reading a book (eyequant). This is where the most important information should be—don’t make customers scour the page looking for a way to find the business.

There is lots of data you can include in the contact information section. The trick is finding the balance of information overload vs. unnecessary vagueness. There are three things you need to specifically include:

Hours of operation

This part is super important. There’s nothing worse than a customer showing up and expecting a business to be open, only to find they've been locked out. You can avoid this by simply putting hours of operation on the website. Most listing sites will make you conform to a certain format for this, making it difficult for businesses with complicated hours to communicate properly. Since you are building the website, you can post the hours however you want—just try to make it as easy to comprehend as possible.

Here is a bad example:website-in-blog-graphic
We are open Mondays - 8:00 am-5:00 pm, Tuesdays - 8:00 am-5:00 pm, Wednesdays - 8:00 am-7:00 pm, Thursdays - 8:00 am-5:00 pm, Fridays - 8:00 am-7:00 pm, Saturdays 12:00 pm-5:00 pm and the service shop is also open until 7:00 pm.

Looks hard to read, right?  It doesn’t look nice, it’s hard to look at specific days, and you don’t know if the service shop is just open on Saturdays, or if it’s always open until 7:00 pm every evening. Here is a better example:

Mon 8 - 5
Tues 8 - 5
Wed 8 - 7
Thurs 8 - 5
Fri 8 - 7
Sat 12 - 5
Sun Closed

Mon-Sat: 12 - 7

Looks a lot nicer, right?  It’s a lot easier to read and find the information you need. The most important part is to make sure the hours are accurate. Even if it takes an extra line to better explain a confusing set of hours, customers greatly appreciate knowing when they can expect a business to be open.

This one is pretty self-explanatory. If people can’t find an address, they can’t come to the business and pay money. You’ve got to give them a location to go to! Now, this is not the full address as it appears to the bank. All you need is enough information so that a person can type it into Google Maps and find it with no trouble. Usually “123 4th street east” will do. Another option is to have a link to a map application, or have the map right on the website. If you’re going that direction, make sure to use an accredited map engine like Google Maps, instead of a hand-drawn creation. People tend to be a lot more familiar with popular map formats and might get confused/scared at the sight of your beautiful artwork.

Phone number
This should also be self-explanatory. This is the number where customers can most easily reach the business. If the hours show that you a business is open, they’d best be answering the phone then, too! Businesses with multiple departments equipped with individual phone lines, might want to stick those on a “Contact Us” page. There’s no sense in cluttering the home page with 30 different phone numbers. Businesses should have one phone number on the homepage display to be a catch-all for any inquiries. Don’t forget an area code for those out-of-town customers. Make it easy for on-the-go customers to hit a button and have their mobile device ring the business instantly.

You might be asking yourself, “isn’t this all information that should be on a listing?”  The short answer is yes, but the long answer is no. While a lot of this information needs to be included on certain directory sites, it is equally or more important to have it on the company website. Put yourself in the shoes of the company’s customers:

You need some snazzy new sneakers, since your old ones are wearing thin and way out of style. You do a Google search for local shoe stores and find one that looks promising. You click the link and get transported to their website. You’re already thinking that you want to stop by to check them out on your way home from work, but you can’t remember what time they close. It’s a good thing they have their store hours on the top level of their website! You can also see where they are located on a map, so you can line it up with your drive home from work. You can even give them a call if you want to put those dreamy kicks on hold so no one else will look as fly as you.

Look at that, the business just made a sale—all thanks to the wonderful and mysterious powers of the internet.

2. Who is the business?

Most people will think that this is the place for a 10-paragraph “About Us” tab. When was the last time you actually read one of those? The attention span of the average Jane who is looking to find out what your business actually does is much lower than you think. Think one sentence, not one page. Einstein once said, “If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough.” Don’t get me wrong—you can still have a long “About Us” tab that details all the company’s accomplishments, history, about how your company transformed into an LLC after landing a deal with LLC Formations Texas, mother’s meatloaf recipe or whatever else you want. Just know that people aren’t going to visit this tab unless they are already interested; the key is to get them interested.

Summarizing the business might seem daunting. Most companies are like onions—they have many layers. Think of the company from the customers’ perspective; what makes them unique? Why are they better than their competitors?  What do they do for customers?  You have one chance to grab your visitor’s attention—don’t be caught rambling!

3. What does the business do?

This should be the meat and potatoes of the website. You might be eager to take your newly-acquired creative license out for a test ride, but don’t get carried away. Always think of the end user. Always. A flashy animated menu bar might do you more harm than the tried-and-true system of the industry. Take a look at some similar websites in the industry; pretend you are their customer. If you like something about the way their website works, make a note. If you find something super inconvenient or confusing, again, make a note. This is your chance to sell the customer on whatever it is the business offers. They are already intrigued enough to make it this far into the website, so it’s okay to go a bit heavy on the product/service information. If you offer different levels of packages/subscriptions/product access, you may also want to include a pricing page for the really eager consumers.

A lot of people think a website should be an online version of the business. In reality, this is virtually impossible. A website is more like a messenger for the business. It’s a tool for relaying information about the business to potential customers. If your messenger is long-winded, confusing and tries to use flashy bright colours to grab your attention, the customer is not going to be engaged. If your messenger relays all the information in a simple, concise and memorable way, customers will be much more likely to engage. It is quite likely a website is the first impression the customer might have of a business—remember, you only get once chance to make a first impression!

About the Author

Nik Winnitowy is a former digital agent in our world class agency, where he built the online presence of local businesses under the brand of our partners. He likes to spend his evenings making music and his weekends skiing or camping in the mountains.

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