Expectations. We all have them. And when someone or something doesn’t meet them, we become disappointed, frustrated, and/or dissatisfied. The same thing happens when people visit your website. They come with expectations and it’s up to you to meet them.
As the adoption of technology has increased, so have people’s expectations. Most interestingly, people have the same fundamental expectations whether they’re at the website of a Fortune 500 company or a “mom and pop” store.
This certainly doesn’t mean that they expect your website to have all the bells and whistles of a large organization, but they do expect that your website is functional and usable. The purpose of this post is to make sure you cover the basic expectations that users have of your website. Think of it as a checklist of “minimum requirements”.
Website Functional Issues (Technical)
Nothing says unmet expectations like something that doesn’t even work. This should be fairly obvious, but with various responsibilities and competing priorities your website can sometimes get “lost in the shuffle”.
Like with most technology, a website isn’t as simple as “set it and forget it”. It requires ongoing work to monitor and maintain. Below are some things you can do to make sure your website stays up and running.
1. It’s Broken
Broken links, contact forms, or features/functionality are a certain way to frustrate your visitors and even risk losing their business. I recommend scheduling periodic reviews/testing of your website. This is especially important if your website is built on a Content Management System and/or utilizes any 3rd party tools/integrations.
- Check your links– Use the free link checker tool from W3C to check your website’s links. This will help you identify links on your website that point to nonexistent pages!
- Schedule Reviews– Start by making a prioritized list of items to test (e.g. contact forms, twitter feeds, etc.). Be sure to test this list after any updates AND on a predetermined schedule (e.g. quarterly). Creating a list of items to test will make this a quick task and establishing a schedule will ensure that you don’t forget.
2. It’s Slow
I’m assuming I don’t need to “convince” you of the importance of your website’s speed, so I’ll spare you the data and anecdotes.
- Check out the free web page speed test tool from Google. This will give you an idea of the speed of your web pages AND provide recommendations on how the speed can be improved. *Disclaimer. The speed test tool is not meant to be a comprehensive tool. It only covers some of the components that go into the speed of your website.
- Whether your website is slow or not, I recommend making a habit of compressing all your images. TinyPNG provides a free image compression tool that will let you shrink the size of images without losing quality. This will reduce the amount of data that has to be transmitted from your website.
Website Usability Issues (Nontechnical)
Your website will be visited by various people for various reasons. However your visitors are all there to accomplish something. Usability is about designing your website so that the majority, if not all, of your visitors can easily accomplish what they want to.
3. They can’t find what they’re looking for
Ensuring that your visitors can find what they are looking for means taking care of these things:
- Logically Organized Information
- Up to date and relevant information
- Clear presentation of information (layout)
- Clear wording and appropriate use of jargon
The largest obstacle for any website is that, in theory, the audience is everyone. This can lead to a website that attempts to meet everyone’s needs, yet meets no-one’s. Have you done the following for your website?
- Clearly define your audience(s)– Get as detailed as possible when doing this. These will likely fall in line with the target markets, buyer persona’s, etc. that your organization has identified.
- Define your audience’s objectives– Identify what it is that your different audiences will look to do on your website. You should do this with the help of your audience (see tips below)!
- Prioritize– Prioritizing your audience and their objectives so you can design your website accordingly. This part can be tricky as you are looking to balance the priorities of your audience with your overall website (and business) priorities.
Even if you don’t have the time/budget to go through formal usability testing, there are some “simple” techniques you can use to inform the design of your website:
- Card Sorting– This is a simple and fun exercise that can help you organize your website. Usability.gov has a good article on card sorting if you want to learn more.
- Website Analytics– Make sure your collecting data on how your website is used. You can utilize tools such as Google Analytics (free) to monitor how people are using your website. This can give you insight on area(s) of your website where you may be missing the mark.
- Ask– When was the last time you asked for feedback on your website?
4. They Can’t Do What They Want To
Don’t miss out on people who are ready to act! Make sure your website provides visitors the opportunity to take an action to become a customer or start a process.
If the only Call to Action (CTA) on your website is a phone number, then you may be missing out. Once a visitor has decided they want to do business with you, they typically want to act now. Most people are busy and want to “get the ball rolling” or get something off their “to-do” list. Below are some reasons why it’s important to provide features/functions for your visitors to act online:
- They are at work
- It’s not during normal business hours
- The perceived “level of effort” is lower (i.e. it’s easier and more convenient)
- Identify common activities– Write down a list of common things that customers or prospects are looking to do, or that you require (e.g. book an appointment, complete a questionnaire, etc.). Even if an online activity will require a follow up, you give them the power to get the ball rolling. Not only will this be beneficial to your visitors, but it can help automate tasks that are currently manual.
- Listen & Ask– Keep your ears open for any feedback that you get on your website AND have a place to document it. If somebody says they were looking to do something on your website, but couldn’t, then take note of it! For those that are courageous, you can be proactive and solicit feedback.
5. It Doesn’t Work on Their Phone or Tablet
Your visitor’s expect to be able to use your website on their terms. In other words, make sure they can access it wherever and whenever they want.
Time spent using smartphones now exceeds web usage on computers in the U.S. -Nielsen
For most people their phone or tablet is with them all the time and everywhere. Provide your visitors the convenience of “getting to know your company” on their terms, by making sure your website is mobile friendly.
Tip: Check out this free mobile friendly test tool from Google. If your website doesn’t pass the test, it will give you recommendations on making your website mobile friendly.