Is your website a party or a snoozefest?

Guest Post by Natalie Rose, NOVA Web Group

A website is a great place to tell the story of your business, share information, and engage with your audience. Look at your website from the visitor’s perspective – does it provide an interesting and engaging experience or is it boring?

There are a lot of places to get information online. People gravitate to the places that provide what they are looking for as well as a pleasant experience. That can be your website or someplace else. Don’t give your competitors an edge by ignoring your user experience.

Website Design Considerations

What’s the first impression when someone arrives at your site? It is visually interesting? Does it draw them in to see more? A great visual design attracts attention without providing visual overload. It draws visitors into the site to experience more.

User Focused Content

Does your content provide the information that users want? Too often, we get caught up in telling people what we want to say and ignore what they want.

Make sure your content speaks to the needs and interests of your target audience, using words they use. No one is interested in figuring out your corporate speak!

Don’t ignore questions and information that you know are on people’s minds. If you don’t address common concerns, people will find the information elsewhere (and you will have no control over that message!)

Allow Visitors to Connect

Does your website let people connect with you? This can be a contact form, an email address and/or a phone number. It can also be links to your social media sites if you offer expanded content there and actively engage with people who post and comment.

Great sites also let people sign up to receive more information on an ongoing basis. Also popular for customer-service oriented sites is a chat feature that invites visitors to connect in real time.

The best way to connect depends on your business and your audience. The good news is that there are many great options.

Amp Up Engagement

Take a fresh look at your website with the goal of engaging your target audience. Evaluate your website from the visitor’s perspective. Make sure it measures up to the experience you offer online as well as to what competitors offer.

Contact Page Best Practices

People visit websites to connect with businesses. So, a Contact Us page is an essential element of every website. The right content on this page can improve both customer satisfaction and SEO.

The best practices list starts with having a contact page. This is a basic and critical way you engage with site visitors, signaling that what they want or need is as important as what you want to share.

Make sure it’s clear how they can get in touch. Don’t get fancy with the navigation label – call it “Contact” or “Contact Us.” Add the menu item to your main and/or footer navigation.

A contact page needs to offer more than a form. There will be people that don’t understand the form, who can’t work it from a small screen like a cell phone and/or are just naturally averse to submitting any information online.

Provide more contact options, like an email address, phone number or social media. Only list options that you want people to use and that you will commit to monitoring. Don’t ask people to tweet if you never monitor your account!

Keep the page current. Like all your other web pages, your contact page needs maintenance. Make sure your information is accurate at all times. If you have a form, periodically test it to make sure it still works.

WordPress Best Practices

WordPress is a terrific content management system for most business websites. It’s easy to use even for non-technical people. I love to deliver sites to clients that use WordPress because I know it will be easy to use and will be updated with all the latest tools for years to come.

Here are some best practices to follow with the underpinnings of you WordPress site.

Mind Your Permalinks

Permalinks are the URLs of each of your web pages. Once you’ve set them, you really shouldn’t change them. So, give a glance at the permalink BEFORE you publish a page or post.

If you  change permalinks after content is published the URL will change. This means search engines may not find the content if they have already indexed the old permalink. Visitors coming to your site via search engines will end up on your site with an error message saying the post could not be found. You want to avoid that!

Keep Software Updated

WordPress, plugins and themes all need regular updates. These keep you safe from hacks and other security issues.

This can be as easy as a click in your dashboard, but proceed with caution! Always back up your site first, so you can restore it if something goes horribly wrong. Better yet, have this work done by a developer who is familiar with common pitfalls and how to avoid them.

Remove Unneeded Plugins

Sometimes you try something that you don’t want. Other times, plugins are no longer maintained and you need to use a new one. Don’t let old, unused plugins clutter up your dashboard.

Also evaluate carefully before you install a new plugin. The wrong choice can slow your website and, worse, make you vulnerable to hacks.

Delete Carefully

You may want to delete posts or pages because they no longer serve a purpose. That’s a good idea, but you need to proceed cautiously. Since the search engines have indexed your site, deleted content on your site will render the infamous 404 pages: page not found. You need to have a plugin that will replace the page with a 410 deleted content header so search engines know the page has been deleted.