We’re all told not to judge a book by its cover, but when it comes to websites, doing so is almost second nature. A website that is slick, polished and easy to navigate is likely to keep visitors around; one that is vague, confusing and unattractive is likely to get the snub by those same visitors.

As a business owner, you always want to be putting your best foot forward and your website is a big part of the image you’re creating for the business. It’s as important as the sign on the door — actually, it’s probably more important. Your website is your book cover — a good one gets noticed, a poorly done one (or stale one, or dated one) gets left behind.  

1) Know your audience. Regardless of what you sell and the sector you’re selling it in, knowing your audience is of upmost importance. It shows that you identify with your customers and potential customers. Tailor your website to meet their navigation needs so that your audience quickly finds exactly what they’re looking for. Otherwise, that same audience will leave and look elsewhere.

2) Design for current trends. A website was once able to live online, virtually untouched, for five years or more. Now, it only takes two years or less for a website to look old and tired. (And you certainly can’t let it linger untouched during that time either!) Website trends change quickly and to remain relevant, you must keep up. Design for current trends and then give your website a facelift every year or so to update its look. One such ‘trend’ is the mobile site. More consumers now view mobile websites without ever looking at the desktop site, so design mobile first and the desktop site will fall in line.

3) Less is more. Or at least, less is more appropriate. Content may be king, but the less there is on your website, the better. Consumers simply don’t have the time or the patience to read all there is to know about your business. Keep the top-level menu to no more than five items and keep every page short and sweet. Include just enough content to garner interest and encourage the customer to get in touch. There is one exception, however…

4) Dynamic content is king. The one exception to rule #3 is when it comes to creating dynamic content. Static content (the who we are and what we do pages) is a website’s framework, but dynamic content is what drives traffic. Blogs and social media boxes are what showcase expertise to customers and gets the SEO benefits needed to continue getting noticed by Google.

5) Easy navigation. Different consumers have different navigational habits. Some browse the top-level menu, others look for easy-to-click buttons and still others immediately scroll to the bottom to find the appropriate clickable keyword short cut. Design with this in mind so that customers don’t get lost, frustrated and leave.

Finally, make sure that customers can always easily find the contact button from wherever they are on the website. Aside from the fact that interested customers can easily get in touch, potential customers who don’t quite like the website’s ‘book cover’ can still make a last ditch attempt to get the information they need.

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