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Luke Jordan, Co-Founder, DesignForest
By a show of hands, how many of you have ever been on a website where it’s nearly impossible to find the information you’re looking for? A website where the page you’re looking for is 6 levels deep on the dropdown menu? Did you know that a significant amount of how the Google algorithm crawls websites is based on the structure of how your content flows from the homepage down? I didn’t know this until a few years ago, so no worries, we all have to start somewhere. How customers find deeper information on your site can play a significant factor in landing them as a customer. For many of you, your monthly web traffic is between 200-1000 unique visitors a month. If you’re wondering how to track that, you can use Google Analytics for free. If you have a free or hosted website, they may even have those statistics for you. All of the websites we build here at DesignForest provide those valuable statistics, so be sure to ask your web team or web provider for them too. They should have them. Think about those numbers consciously though. Imagine 200 real people coming into your consulting office asking for information. That’s a lot! Now imagine that number going up by just 50 people a month. Now imagine 200 or more. Many folks that we chat with are beginning to see their website or their clients’ websites as a piece of that paradigm shift Joe Woodard mentioned at Scaling New Heights. It is important to see your website as not just a box to check off in the business plan, but rather a gateway to enormous amounts of business if structured and designed in the right format. But before we get into the 3 foundational factors to website structure success, let’s have a heart to heart about how to identify your website needs.
One thing that we love about working with consultants is that for most of you, your business is bootstrapped. You’ve done something in this world that virtually no one is willing to attempt. Create, sustain, and survive on something you’ve made out of nothing. You’re the investor. You’re the dreamer. You’re the risk taker. What we’ve heard from lots of folks out there is that many of you don’t have an in-house marketing team, design team, or web development team. This is normal. But with the exponentially growing online world, the likeliness of getting left behind is becoming quite the reality. The first step to knowing if you or your customers need help, is to be honest. W always encourage our customers or potential customers to send their websites via email, with no preface or over-explanation, to 10 people they know who will tell them the truth about the design and ease of use of their website. Ask them to review your site and tell them that you won’t take offense to constructive criticism. Constructive criticism is good for growth.
Simply have them rate the four following factors on a 1-5 scale.
5 being Very Good and 1 Needs Significant Improvement.
- Visually Appealing
- Mobile Friendly
- Easy to Navigate
- Generates Immediate Interest
This is not designed to discourage you but to help you step back and see how your company is truly being understood by the online world. Let me fill you in on a little story. Yes you can tease me the next time we chat. When I was a kid, I used to love wearing these awesome cowboy boots - often times on the wrong feet. I would wear them with swim trunks, my underwear, my full body zip-up pajamas (don’t act like you didn’t have them). I got to a certain point in my childhood where my mother had to pull me aside and explain to me how things didn’t match, how the boots really weren’t made for playing soccer or playing with other kids on the jungle gym. My perception of the situation was that my boots were just fine. They were what I was comfortable with.
When I switched out to my sweet new Nike’s, my game on the soccer field skyrocketed and my ability to dodge balls on the playground was out of control. The love letters from the girls were coming in from every corner of the classroom. Did they cost my mom a little more? Yes. Did they help me understand a whole new way of life? Yes. My ability to do things at that stage of my life was significantly lifted all because of a small design change investment. Could I have kept my free, comfortable, and superbly outdated cowboy boots and made it through my later single digit years? Probably. But think of all the things I was able to get better at by making the change. However, I also wore the shoes out more often because I needed to adapt to the new environments as I grew. My mom and I had to be more specific in what we were buying and what activities the shoes were being used for. Take soccer for instance. The way we saw it was that I could play soccer with regular tennis shoes. However, this would have substantially limited my ability to cut faster, pass more accurately, and accelerator easier. I probably would have been cut from my club team. The decision to buy well made soccer shoes was an easy one when we looked at it that way.
Think of your web presence in the same way. Grow your business bigger with the right tools or services rather than just get by.
For many of you, you have the ability to make these changes on your own through your CMS or Content Management System. This is the area where you log into the backend and change content, add internal links, etc. For some of you or your clients, it may be a good idea to have a design team step in. Remember, time = money. If a design firm can do something in a 1/10 of the time and triple the quality, your money invested should return you tenfold. Choosing a design firm can be daunting and often times misleading. We will be covering this area of the industry in another upcoming article so stay tuned for that one. We will discuss the differences between platforms, what your customers need, and what questions to ask in order to weed out the ill prepared firms.
So by now, you’re probably wondering what the main areas of website structure are. Well, since this is a two part series, I guess you’ll have to stay tuned for our blog next week ;)
Your homework this week is to send a super simple email out to 10 business friends who will tell you the truth, or at least close to it, about your website. Be sure not to add any personal opinions about your website in there. Nothing good and nothing bad. Just explain that you’re trying to give yourself the best shot online with your customers this year and you need some good old fashion constructive support.
Catch you all next week for the big 3 pieces to better website structure!
By Luke Jordon // Co-Founder @ DesignForest
Luke Jordon is the Co-founder & Chief Design Officer for DesignForest // a leading national web design & custom programming firm. The DesignForest team has been designing web based applications and visual environments since 2000. Their specialties include business designs, eCommerce designs, and Fishbowl Inventory programming and database setup. Luke graduated from the University of Arizona with a degree in Regional Economic Development and also holds an MBA in Strategic Planning from the University of Phoenix.