We don’t blame you if you love your website. You’ve been with it every step of the way, from concept designs to launch. It’s been molded in your vision to show off to investors and friends alike. There’s a harsh truth you need to accept though, and that’s that your website might not actually be that good.
One of the biggest giveaways that this is the case is a lack of a substantial audience. Without a constantly evolving audience, your business can only grow so much. Every online business needs to put a huge emphasis on building a strong, passionate audience, especially in the early years of operation.
Let’s take a look at exactly how bad website design can impact your ability to grow an audience, and what you can do to fix it.
1. They Can’t Navigate It
The importance of user experience and ease of navigation throughout a website cannot be understated.
It’s vital that your website is structured around providing easy and accessible navigation for first-time users. When building or refining a website, you need to have a navigation-first mindset.
Don’t just consider navigation through particular pages, but the overall visitor journey. This is particularly key in eCommerce, where it’s vital the customer journey is inherently obvious to even novice online shoppers and simplified to the point where someone can work out what they need to do and how to do it within seconds of landing.
In particular, landing pages need to be prioritised during your building or redevelopment pages. See which pages you’re using throughout your advertising and harness analytics to discover your most frequently visited pages.
To build your audience and turn a new visitor into an engaged audience member, you need to make sure these pages are optimised to guide them through your website effectively. This means obvious buttons, a simple structure and clear headings to improve readability.
While all your pages should follow these rules, your first step should be to optimize pages that see the most traffic and thus create a first impression for your business and website.
2. Your Website Is Too Slow
Any good webmaster or business owner knows about the issues a slow website can bring. If your website takes longer than 3 seconds to load, it can dramatically affect your ability to keep people on your website.
The average internet user is much savvier than they were even ten years ago, and subsequently more impatient when it comes to browsing. They will not accept a website that takes too long to load and complete simple operations, opting to go with a competitor for convenience even if your prices or services are superior. A slow website produces a mark against your business and is one of the biggest tells of incompetence.
On top of this, a slow website makes it difficult for you to build a website in a practical sense. Slow websites suffer dramatically in terms of SEO. If your website is slow to load, it makes it difficult for Google bots to fully crawl, and thus understand what your website is actually about and focused on. This makes it difficult for Google to rank you effectively, in some cases disqualifying you entirely, in turn undoing all the good work your SEO optimisation has done.
There are a number of ways you can improve your website speed, from improving server response times to optimising large image files.
3. It Makes You Seem Untrustworthy
As touched upon before, the average internet user is much savvier than ever before. With this newfound savviness comes an ability to spot which websites should and shouldn’t be trusted.
Your business can be as legitimate as any other in the industry, but if you aren’t giving certain trust cues to the average browser, it’s going to hamper your ability to build an audience.
In the eyes of the average customer, a legitimate business puts maximum care into their website. If your website looks like something out of the 90’s in 2020, they’re going to be wary as to whether or not this website was just thrown up quickly to scam a few unsuspecting customers.
While there are some websites that are purposely bad as part of their gimmick, the majority of professional websites will look to match the sleek, streamlined and efficient design currently in vogue. Unless you’re doing it very well, being different won’t help you. It’ll only set you back and make customers question your motives.
Likewise, your website design needs to put an emphasis on customer service pages to really be considered trustworthy. This doesn’t mean having your main homepage banners linking to the About Us or Returns pages, but making these contact and information pages clear on the site map.
Sometimes it may feel like no one visits these pages, but many users will look out for them before placing an order or signing up for an account. Where possible, look to include examples of social proof, such as verified reviews and testimony, within your website design. This has been proven to have a dramatic effect on people’s perception of a business and website.
4. You’ve Over Complicated Simple Actions
It’s a common thread throughout some of the best brands and products in history that simplicity always wins out and attracts the biggest audience. One of the biggest reasons your online business has failed to win over a big audience is because you’re making it difficult for them to do even the simplest things on your website.
If you’re running an eCommerce store, your priority is to get people to buy products. The first stage for turning a first-time visitor into someone willing to buy is to make sure they can find the products.
Searching isn’t always as intuitive as it seems. Product filters are sometimes overlooked by eCommerce stores, but subsequently also overthought, leading to an overcomplicated search functionality that makes it hard to reduce the number of products a customer is presented with and find what they’re actually looking for. This is an example of something simple that’s a part of almost every user journey and is easy to get wrong.
If your website is used as the hub for your service, such as IT customer service, it’s imperative you have your phone number and other contact information clear and visible on the front page. This is the reason 90% of people will come to your website, so make achieving their goal a one-click action.
Likewise, if the main focus of your website is to build a community, such as through a forum, details and directions as to how to log in need to be clear on the front page. It’s no good hiding that away in the corner in an attempt to distract them with other content and features you’d like them to see. Users will often visit a website with a set goal in mind, and you have to do your best to facilitate that goal.
5. There’s No Attempt at Community Building
While the majority of community building happens across social media channels, the first step to that is often through your website. If you’re not sending first-time visitors to spaces where they can interact with existing fans, then you can’t really blame an audience for not congregating and growing.
This is achieved in a number of ways. First, you can use special offers and discount codes to attract people to sign up for your email newsletter. This is a great method of building an audience quickly, directly putting your marketing materials, content and products into their inbox on a regular basis.
Secondly, you need to include clear links to your social channels or any other audience base platforms you may be using, such as forums. This is a much faster way to get people to follow and interact with you on these platforms, rather than relying on them to individually seek you out.
6. They Can’t Find Value in Your Content
Content has emerged as one of the key components of a successful website. If your content isn’t up to par or, more significantly, difficult to find, you’re harming your chances of building a substantial audience.
Great on-site content affects a number of different metrics, from your ranking on Google to your conversion rates. This can have a significant impact on an audience’s ability to actually find your website in the first place. If you aren’t writing effective content that can rank, you’re not going to appear in more niche searches and struggle to build an organic base. Great content helps you find a wider audience, as you offer how-to guides and product highlights.
Then you need to look at whether or not your content is actionable. If your content simply sits there as something nice to read, but doesn’t actually guide your audience to any product pages, walk them through the shopping process or lead them to sign up for a newsletter amongst many other things, then it can’t be considered successful at audience building. If you’re lucky they’ll remember your name and website, but essentially, you’re right back where you started.
7. They Can’t Use It on Mobile
If you’re not taking mobile seriously, then I think we may have found why your website is struggling to amass an audience.
Google now prioritises mobile performance when ranking websites, meaning that if you aren’t optimised for mobile and tablet platforms, your ability to build an organic audience is severely hampered. Your website needs to operate as flawlessly on mobile as it does on desktop, with clear clickable icons, large readable text and equally fast loading times. It’s not enough to treat mobile as a niche anymore, as the majority of users will do their daily browsing on it, particularly first-time visitors.
The most vocal audience is always on mobile. Think about the ease of mobile. If someone is frustrated with your appearance on mobile, it’s easier for them to take a screenshot, hop over to a fast-loading social channel and post to the world about your poor performance on their preferred platform. Mobile performance should be the first and last thing on your mind when it comes to web design.
Website design is a labor of love. There will always be issues with your website, but how dramatically difficult those issues are to deal with can have a huge impact on your ability to grow an audience. Follow these tips and you’ll be able to learn more about your audience and develop one that is more passionate and willing to help in their own growth.