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Ten-step guide to improving your website

Every idea has a home, and every home has an address. For an online company that address typically begins with “www.” To be a success online, you must take your website into account and use it very intelligently, as the powerful tool that it is.

Design, communication and navigation can be deal breakers when people visit your website – no matter how great your product might be. Too many websites are not up-to-date in terms of professionalism of design and navigation, and too many have forgotten the importance of good copy that communicates clearly and represents the company’s spirit.

Here are the ten most common mistakes made by websites all over the world:

1. Lack of professionalism.

Overall, websites that lack a high level of professional- ism lag behind. They don’t look trustworthy, and leave visitors with a bad impression. In the following points we’ll look at things that make for a strong, professional-looking site.

2. Design and layout.

One of the first things that makes an impression on a visitor is the site’s overall look – colors, compositions, general design elements. If the layout is bad – messy, and has no real common thread running through it – visitors will rarely become buyers.

Be aware that different cultures have different needs and tastes, when it comes to design. In Asia, visitors expect a lively site of bright colors and animations, while customers in the US prefer a bit more subtlety. In Scandinavia they prefer clearer, simpler design.

3. Color.

Color is powerful. If a website has mish-mash of colors, irritating color combinations, or other color misuses, it’s dangerous – visitors get a bad impression of the company, missing out on the true company spirit and attitude. If you want to really get in the heads of potential customers, spend some time researching the psychology of color.

4. Too much text and information.

Too much text is a common error – especially when pre- sented in big, long blocks (poor paragraphing). Unfortunately, this it can ruin even a nice, simple online profile.

Before you go putting up a lot of text on your site, make very sure it’s text that people will actually want to read, and make them want to buy your product. Then be sure the volume of text doesn’t make your design look too crowded, or spoil it in some other way.

5. Logo.

Every good and serious company needs a professional logo that conveys company spirit and strength. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that any good graphic designer is also good at logo design – it’s an art in itself!

6. No pictures.

Including photos of your team members on the “About Us” page does a lot to strengthen your online profile. This is where most online companies show their visitors that they aren’t just a bunch of machines and digits – there really are live human beings there, ready to serve them!

7. Hard to understand.

One big mistake many companies make is not making a clear, firm statement of who they are, what they do, and how they are different from other companies. Use easily-understood, interesting text, along with clear illustrations, videos and diagrams that make concepts instantly obvious. The answer to the visitor’s number-one question, “WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME?” should be crystal clear to anyone – or at least to users and prospective users.

8. Poor navigation.

Do not make your website too smart, fancy and complicated, especially when it comes to navigation. If it isn’t easy for any visitor to find what he’s looking for, he’s going to leave, and you’re going to lose a sale.

9. Too slow.

Load time should not be a problem in 2012, but unfortunately it still is. This is not good, but it must be taken into account. Make sure your website loads fast and loads well, on all major web browsers.

10. Help.

You must include easily-seen, easily-understood action buttons – and test them often to be sure they’re working correctly! It has to be easy for any visitor to find what he wants to find, go where he wants to go, and do what he wants to do. Very often prospective customers will visit your website just once. Don’t lose them by not guiding them, showing them the answers to “what do I do?” and “where do I click to get started?” Colors and excellent design play a big part in this guiding process.

It takes more than these ten things to make a brilliant website, but they should make it easier to get started with a new site or to improve an existing one – they’re the most important points to focus on.

To be effective, your website also has to make good use of SEO principles, Google Analytics, web optimization and so on. If you’re not already very familiar with these things, just start looking them up on Google. You’ll very quickly learn why they’re so important.

How will you know when your message has gotten out?

When people start writing emails and posts about the brilliant product you’ve developed and fantastic service you deliver, and when people begin envying your success, you’re on your way.

When more and more and more people know your company or product name and the problem you solve, you’re on the right track.

When the media start contacting you (instead of the other way around) you’re definitely on right track!

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