When you first opened your business, creating a website was probably one of the top three things on your to-do list. Let's be real, you had high hopes for your website. It was going to be the thing that announced to the world just how awesome you are and was going to get you more customers than you knew what to do with.
So, you went all in... You made the content, paid for the ads, backlinked your tail off, and still nothing. Maybe over the years, you've added videos, keywords, case studies, and still, online shopping carts and calendars remain empty.
So, what's the problem and how do you fix it?
Well, it's one of two issues:
1) You aren't getting enough/the right traffic to your site
2) The people you are getting to your site are not doing what you want them to do - buy or book!
This is a really important point, because many people who aren't getting results from their website, just assume not enough people are finding their website and so they keep dumping more and more money into ads. But if you are getting enough people to your site, and the problem is they are clicking around and leaving instead of clicking through and converting, then it's the website itself that's the issue, not the ads. Sometimes, just identifying the right problem is half the battle.
If it is your website that needs some TLC, keep reading.
Let's start at the very beginning. A website is simply a digital storefront. I know that may seem like an obvious statement, but if you look at your website as if it was really and truly the digital equivalent of the 3D shopping experience, you may find that from an experience standpoint, the site may not measure up as well as if you were looking at it as a hub or collection on relevant information about your business.
The process for creating a website that delivers your brand experience and turns visitors into customers is all about setting an intention for the space and here's how you do it.
Basically, information architecture refers to the organizational structure of your website. It is creating the labeling system for all the pieces of data you are going to include on your site and putting them into buckets. The key part of this step is organizational decisions aren't based on what makes sense to you, but what makes sense to your ideal audience. Let's use an example to clarify.
Let's say I owned an online jewelry store. In designing my website I'd decide how to group my products in order to help my customers find what they are looking for before they get frustrated and give up. Do I break it down by type of jewelry (i.e. earrings, rings, bracelets)? Or should it be by features (i.e. gems, pearls, Swarovski, charm)? How about the occasion (i.e. casual/costume, special occasion, wedding)? What about pierced backings vs clip-on for the earrings? How many categories before shoppers feel overwhelmed? You get the idea!
As an owner, I might be drawn to a particular way based on how I order, or price, or maybe even just how I shop, but that may not work for my customer base. This is a big deal because most online buyers love the convenience it brings, and they don't have a lot of patience for clicking around in circles. From the second they get to your site, the clock is ticking until they open up a neighboring tab and shop your competitors.
Having a clear understanding of how to focus and simplify the information and offers will give you a huge advantage in the online shopping game.
Wireframing is the next step in the creation of a website. It is used to understand the layout and navigation of a site. We use wireframes to understand how a customer will interact with a website and move through it easily.
Going back to our jewelry store example, wireframing answers questions like, "Once a shopper adds an item to the cart if they want to keep shopping is there a continue shopping button, do they hit the back button, or is there something they have to click out of?" "If they click on a link does it open a new tab?" "If a shopper ever gets stuck, is there an obvious button that will get them unstuck, and where does it take them?" "how many times do they have to click on average before they can add an item to the cart?".
Wireframing is the best way to really visualize how the site will work without the distraction of all the design elements. It allows you to focus on the functionality first without relying on design as a crutch. This is also a great place to use focus groups to give feedback on ease of use.
Web design is probably the most fun part of the process for business owners because that's where we add your brand's look and feel to the site. From brand elements to photography, videos, and messaging by the time you get to the design stage, you should know exactly what your website will look like.
The design of your website really sets the tone for shoppers and gives them the sense that they are in your store. It should create the same excitement you feel when you swing open the door to your favorite shop.
Once you have a final version of the website, you can hand off your web design to a developer who will build out your website. The process works a lot like handing off architectural plans to a construction company.
If you're just starting out in business, you may be making it work with a "done for you site" that is already developed out, like Wix or Shopify. It can be a great option as these platforms are getting more and more flexible in terms of customization, just be sure you are still taking the time to go through the first three steps. Just because you can create a website in 30 minutes, doesn't mean you should.
The bottom line here is your website is an important part of your brand experience and in order to have a truly effective website (one that makes money) the approach should be to first intentionally build out the experience and then figure out the logistics. Taking the time and making a budget to develop your site properly will save you tons of revisions down the road and avoid the frustration of paying month after month to drive traffic to a site that isn't built to get you a return on your investment.