So you finally got around to building a website, but now you're wondering why it's not driving the results you'd hoped for.
According to David Chen, CEO and co-founder of the Y Combinator-backed startup Strikingly, that could be because you're falling into one of the four big traps business owners often overlook. Strikingly is tool that lets you build a website in less than 10 minutes. This week, the company even launched a "one-click" website builder that literally allows people to build a personal website in one click of a button.
I recently asked Chen to share some of the top mistakes he sees on startup websites, as well as advice on how business owners can right their wrongs online. Here's what he said:
1. You're making customers click too much.
Blame it on society's increasingly shortened attention span, but Chen says most websites overestimate the number of hoops their customers are willing to jump through in order to get to the product or service they're looking for.
"Every single click is an action point. When people get distracted by all the different actions, they don't click on the one button you want them to," Chen says, noting that e-commerce is a slightly different story. "The best websites we've seen that increase action are the ones with only one action point."
His advice: decide what action you want customers to take, whether it's making a call, finding your address, or placing an order, and emphasize that button over all others.
2. You're thinking about mobile last (or not at all).
According to the National Small Business Association's 2013 small business technology survey, nearly one out of five business owners has a mobile website. That's progress. And yet, Chen says, most of those business owners aren't making the best use of the fact that they have a mobile website, because they're still designing for the Web. As mobile traffic becomes increasingly important, Chen says, entrepreneurs should begin designing their sites with mobile first in mind.
A good mobile website, he says, should look like an app. Users should be able to navigate it by swiping, rather than clicking, a motion that's native to the mobile phone. There should also be a constant action point visible to users, so they don't have to zoom in and out to get what they want and where you want them to be.
Plus, Chen says, a good mobile design with minimal clicks and clear action points translates to the Web much more easily than a complex website translates to mobile. "If you start by thinking about mobile and then bring that experience to the Web, it fixes a lot of other problems," he says.
3. You're using overly complex, jargon-laden descriptions.
As someone who makes her living talking to entrepreneurs, I can personally attest to this point. Entrepreneurs, brilliant though they may be, are often terrible at explaining what they actually do. Face-to-face, there's time for clarification. On a website, there's not (For a quick refresher, check out Jason Fried's 2011 story for Inc. on why most business writing sucks.).
Chen believes most business owners suffer from simply knowing too much about their own companies. "They're trying to tell everything they know about themselves to users in a short period of time, and in the end users don't know who they are at all," he says.
Instead, Chen advises, try to distill your value proposition into one sentence, keeping in mind that once you hook a customer with a clear, concise pitch, you'll likely have time to expand later.
4. Your website has too much content.
Different from trap No. 3, this is not a matter of what you're writing, but how much you're writing. "One type of content people always go overboard on is text," Chen says.
Thinking about mobile first should alleviate this problem, because mobile websites have less space you might be tempted to fill with text. Instead, Chen says, whenever possible use a video, diagram, or other type of media to get your message across. Chen says, "If it's just your website, and not an article or something people want to read, the less text you have, the better and more beautiful it will be."