By Jennifer Dopazo
Do you suffer from Web shame? Many small business owners do. Web shame is when you avoid giving out your website address when asked because your website embarrasses you. Your site no longer represents your vision and when viewed on a mobile device, it is totally useless. It’s when you find yourself staring at your site and instead of nodding in satisfaction, you look away in horror.
Can you imagine being afraid to show people the most important part of your business and branding–your website? Your website is the public face of your business. It is available 24/7 year-round and tells your story and so much more. Here are some tips for avoiding Web shame and having a site that represents you and your brand well:
1. Your website should send a strong message about what you do to build relationships. Readers are savvy. They smell sales-y copy and will walk away quickly if you don’t engage them correctly. That is why it’s important to deliver a strong message and offer high-quality content so they trust you, bookmark your site and come back often.
Every time someone visits your website, you get a chance to help them and provide value to them. Asking them to click, subscribe or buy immediately does not make them feel you are trustworthy–and they’ll walk away.
2. Great Experience + Great Copy & Brand = Happy Audience
All the parts of a good website work together. Every single page in your website should be consistent, not only with the brand, but also with the message and the experience provided on the homepage. Many times we find a great website with an engaging homepage, but once we start browsing it, the effect goes away and we end up with something more like a Word document than an interactive experience.
Being consistent is easy once you define your brand guidelines and editorial voice. The hard part is sticking with it no matter what and letting your audience know what to expect so that they’re not surprised by poor-quality images, vague copy or confusing navigation.
3. Put readability first. Let design help.
Most readers come for your content. They want to read and find great articles, advice and tips you have to share. Use design to your benefit and make it enhance your content. Highlight what you need your visitor to see first once they land on a certain page. This way, you can guide the flow of your site with graphic elements without distracting your visitor. Less is more.
4. Let your brand personality shine.
Brand awareness and recognition are some of the most important aspects of any business, but branding is more than the layout and what colors you use. It’s how you deliver your message and connect with your audience. It is how your audience will find you, like you and follow you. This is how you gain loyal customers and brand reputation.
Take one step back and think about your brand message and what you have to offer. Every item you add to your website and brand image should mean something. Think of what works best to showcase you and/or your business online and what will help your next visitor get to know you and your offerings better. Develop a simple narrative and avoid anything that might distract your visitor from your main goal.
You’ve come a long way in crafting your brand message; don’t let it hide under the coldness of computer screen pixels. Let your brand’s personality shine through your website design. Once you have a clear message and a strong brand that communicates it, you’re halfway to the Web shame cure.
5. Think mobile first. How many times a day do you look at your favorite sites on a mobile device? About 88% of adults carry a mobile phone: 50% of those are smartphones and 19% are tablets, according to the Pew Internet Project. Thinking “mobile first” helps you understand how your audience is experiencing your brand on the go, lets you consider the hierarchy of information and how to offer it in a way that is convenient for them in short periods of time. Your site has to be mobile-friendly.
Remember, what works for others might not work for you. We all have websites we love and admire and wished ours looked like. But instead of trying to look like them, try to understand why you love them, why you come back and why you want yours to look that way. Is it the experience? Is it the color? Is it the witty copy? Could it be the photos? What is that you like about each of those sites that makes you love them?
List all of the different parts and components you really admire from each of these sites. Print them out and put them on a board. Imagine how your user will find your website and what they will do next. What do you see? Is there a way your message can be delivered this way? Are all of these elements helping out? Do you need less?
For each element you discard or for each element you add, think of your visitor and how easy you’re letting him or her find you, get to know you and ultimately become a loyal follower.
Maybe a full-screen background image doesn’t work well for you because you’re not going to use high-resolution images. Maybe a video on your homepage is not how you can deliver your message in the best way… and so on.
By establishing your brand message and determining what features might or might not work for your site, you’re taking the first steps in resolving all of your issues. Slowly but surely, you too can be proud of your website. Keep in mind that a professional Web designer is aware of all these tools and can help you build and maintain the website of your dreams.
Jennifer Dopazo is an award-winning designer specialized in brand identity, interaction design and UX/UI design while exploring the fields of collaboration, community-building learning environments, wearable computing and open source. She is the founder of New York-based Design Studio Candelita (www.candelita.is). Her clients include The New York Times, Nick.com and New York Magazine. Stop by her site for the latest Web design and branding tips and to learn more about Candelita.