It will become apparent as you read on that, just recently, I was looking to make a purchase and thought that online would give me all the options I could possibly want.  Sadly, frustratingly, I was stymied at every turn by poorly thought-out websites. I resorted to actually going to a retail outlet (no, seriously).

Never mind,” I thought to myself “perhaps that could make an interesting topic for a blog post…”  (Every cloud..!)

This is perhaps also a timely post as thoughts of spring-cleaning should also extend to our websites (and I include myself in that).  A major overhaul or just a refresh can be good for your search engine rankings. 

Here are four tips to get you started.

Start with your customers: what do they need and what do they know?

Too many websites seem to start with the product or service and focus on selling the attributes of that, rather than thinking about what ‘problem’ that product or service will solve for the end user.  Take, for example, buying a new desk chair.  Supposing you found a website that organised all its chairs by brand.  How many of us are familiar enough with office furniture brands to actually know where to start? It might be easier for the organisation but wouldn’t end users rather search by price, or style, or even colour?

Are you selling a product when you should be selling a service?

Somewhat an extension of the thought above, but are you underselling what you offer? Can you provide additional details on your website that puts you above and beyond what your competitors offer?  Let’s say you have long legs and are in the market for a tall office chair: if the answer to the question “Is the seat height adjustable?” is “Yes”, it really doesn’t give you much to go on.  However, the answer “Yes – height range 45-65cm” is far more likely to have long-legged desk jockeys buying their chairs from you.

How will your customers use your website: map their route through and check it for obstacles.

Think about what your customers want to get from your website.  How will they search it? How will they purchase or request more information? How will you ensure they engage with it in the ways you choose? Get someone who knows nothing about your product or service to test it for you.  If you offer a search option, make sure its criteria are meaningful to your customers.  (I wouldn’t know the difference between a ‘basic tilt’ chair and a ‘synchro tilt’ chair to know whether that’s something I’d want to filter on or not.)

Check your technology works in the way it should.

Another job for that ‘untrained eye’ is to work their way through your site: click every button and link, complete every form, and load it on a range of devices and browsers.  Technology moves so quickly, you may well find that what worked 6 months ago no longer functions as you expect.  And if, for example, you offer a ‘live chat’ to ask office furniture related questions, make sure there is someone at the end of it, at least during office hours.

So, yes, there are several chair retailers who definitely lost my business recently. Perhaps their lose can be our gain in terms of lessons learned.