In this day and age, you would think that almost every business owner knows the value of a good website. However, it only takes a few quick Google searches to realize that, whether they realize it or not, many business owners still have not gotten with the times. Perhaps they don’t realize how much of a difference it makes on potential customers’ buying decisions, or maybe they just continue to put it off due to budget constraints. Being in the marketing business, our company spends each and every day trying to educate business owners about the importance of their online presence. For this article, though, we wanted to give our own voices a rest and instead let others in the business community chime in on how a company’s website affects how they view them.
First impressions are key when it comes to your site. Most people decide if they are going to do business with someone within the first few minutes of meeting them. If the ‘meeting’ is in the form of going to your website, you’d better make sure that impression is a positive one. Local bank executive Carrie Weiler stated, “When visiting a business website for the first time, the look and feel is definitely what catches my eye the most.” Along with design and an overall pleasant appearance, the other big factor was how easy it was to find information on the business and how it was presented. Nate Eskra, a print consultant, said, “As a business professional, a pet peeve of mine is going to a website that is meant to promote a business and not being able to find the information I’m looking for.” Carrie concurred with the statement by adding, “If I pull up a web page and the information is all over the place, that makes me think that’s how they run their business and I probably would not want to do business with them.”
How user-friendly a website is made a huge difference to those we interviewed, which ties into how the information is laid out. Kristin Koopman, who works for a promotional products company, said that she would stay on a web page for thirty seconds maximum if she couldn’t find what she was looking for. Nate and Carrie agreed. “If I can’t find the information I need in less than a minute, I’m going on to the next page,” Carrie said. Nate added, “I don’t have time to look around a site or read tons of copy. If it’s not easy to find, I’ll probably go look elsewhere.” Landing pages are one of the easiest ways to make sure those who visit your site can quickly find the information they came to find. If you’re promoting an event or a special, don’t direct people to your home page and hope they’ll click on links to find the specific information. Create a landing page specifically about that information and promote a link that will bypass your home page and take visitors directly to the info they need.
Of course, being mobile-friendly is probably the area we see most businesses lacking and is by far one of the most critical components of modern sites. Carrie explained, “I am in sales, so I’m not in my office all the time. I need to be able to pull up websites on my mobile device to find what I’m looking for. Also, as a family, we are traveling around a lot, so if I need to look something up it had better be easy to do so from my phone.” Nate added, “This is 2016. If you don’t have a mobile-friendly website, you are basically telling customers, ‘Hey, we haven’t updated our site since the invention of the smart phone.’”
Having a clean, easy-to-navigate, mobile-friendly website is clearly what matters in this day and age. But was there anything else that stood out to the businesspeople we interviewed? “If I go on a site and it looks slapped together, or there is outdated information on it, it drives me crazy,” said Kristin. “Broken links, no updates and poor functionality not only make me think less of the site, but also less of the business.”
Nate added, “If I see something like a 404 error, or ‘this page is under construction’ or a ‘coming soon’ announcement, that irritates me. If you’re going to put a site up, make sure it works and make sure it’s updated. People will associate a nonfunctioning website with a nonfunctioning product or service.”
What was interesting about the interviews we conducted was that none of the people we talked to gave much consideration to bells and whistles. No one mentioned that high-end video, pages and pages of amazing graphics or interactive features would sway their buying decisions. That’s great news for the small business owner because we all know how expensive those extras can be. The biggest takeaway is that your site need not be the most beautiful and exciting website out there; it just needs to be easy for visitors to use and updated regularly.
As your home on the internet, your business website should be given just as much consideration as your actual office space. As Carrie pointed out, “We use the web for everything nowadays, so it’s very important that a business have a great web presence. It certainly affects where I spend my money.”