Create a Surfs-up Impression for Your Website

how to tips for websitesEvery business owner knows making a consistent, positive first impression is essential. Yet, no less than three times this week I was told about bad website experiences. I had my own poor first impressions looking for park benches for our homeowners association. With, an estimated 215 million Americans actively surfing the Internet, the virtual experience is just as important, if not more, than bricks and mortar.

Because a friend referred me to the park bench suppliers, I took the next step and called them. Usually this isn’t the case; 45% of shoppers with smart phones use the web to do price comparisons. No price? No comparison. No customer.

If you have a small business (or even a big one) here are some website basics to follow:

Be thoughtful about your customer experience

Last year, one of my clients was debating whether or not a marketing professional should manage his website or should he just have the ‘IT guy” handle it. (I also hear, “I can do it myself.” Yes, and most people can wield a hammer and nails, but they don’t try building their own store.)

I asked my client what type of customer experience he wanted to project. He said, “What do you mean?”

We talked about his recent experience buying his electric guitar. He shared that he quickly left websites until he found a few that were easy to use, compared prices, and bought the guitar. Each of his website visits was his “in-store” customer experience for the company.

If you, or your IT person, understands graphic design, knows how to write for the web, and understands what your customer wants to find on your website, you have the skills to create a positive experience. If not, your business risks being described with the words I heard this week—clunky, a mess, sadly lacking, or just plain bad.

 Selling something? Remember, the devil is in the details!

People expect to quickly find sales/promotions, local store hours, directions, product information (price!) and availability, and photos. Sometimes, I wonder if retailers think hiding the price forces a customer to call, which enables them to personally close the sale. In reality, it probably means they will lose the customer as they move on to the next retailer in their online search results.

 Be mobile friendly

Does your business target 18-49 olds, urbanites, suburbanites, white people, or people of color? If your answer is yes, more than likely your customer is a smart phone user. A 2012 Nielsen report says 66% of Americans ages 24-35 own a smart phone. In another recent study, Pew Research Center reports 52% of in-store shoppers with smart phones surf the web for more information—while they are in the store. Then, one in five of these “mobile price matchers” goes home and makes their purchase online! Remember, the devil is in the details.

Be brief

There are numerous resources about writing for the web because as the Nielsen wire survey reports, the average person only spends 56 seconds on a website. Trying to read big blocks of text online is akin to surfing and hitting the wall, people quickly bounce out. People just don’t take the time to read. So…

  • Keep text short and avoid narratives
  • Use bullets or lists
  • Provide sub-headlines
  • Limit blogs to 600 words or less

Happy surfing!

Following these tips will help you make a positive first impression with your online surfers.


  1 comment for “Create a Surfs-up Impression for Your Website

  1. March 7, 2012 at 9:36 AM

    Nice article here, Joan. Most people don’t realize that in order to have a successful website (that is, one that will increase revenue for your business) you need to design it from the ground up based on user experience, as you mentioned. What do you want your potential customers to do when they visit your site? Make it easy for them and keep it simple. Good design keeps the end user in mind.

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