If your small business webpage was originally hosted on Geocities and you haven’t updated it since, it’s a good bet you could use a refresh of your website.
The internet is an amazing place, but you definitely need to stay current, otherwise your website could be the subject of ridicule, ironic memes, or worst of all—*gasp*—you could be ignored.
Here are the top 5 signs your small business website is behind the times
1. Your website simply looks old
The layout, look, and feel of your website says a lot about your business. If your site looks like the SpaceJam site from 1996, it may be funky-fresh in your eyes, but today’s customers will not give you the respect you deserve, or likely use your site at all.
If your business has anything to do with aesthetics, design, food, retail sales, pet services, local services, etc. you really need to see the light and hire a reputable freelance web designer.
Or, better yet, use one of the low-cost website-building services such as Wix or SquareSpace that offer functional, beautiful templates for any taste… any of which will look better than a crusty AOL page with low-res images or clipart, ancient Times New Roman fonts, and flashing neon graphics.
2. Your website navigation is difficult to use, confusing, or non-functional
Website design seems like it should be easy.
After all, we all use websites every day, so we ought to know what makes a good one. Anyone can do it, right? Well, it’s not that simple.
It’s likely that the successful business websites you use every day are the product of countless hours of thought, design, and construction by teams of people, and likely the investment of many thousands or even millions of dollars.
There are exceptions (Amazon, anyone?) in cases where a business’s marketing has been so successful that people will put up with a site that is not the nicest to look at or the easiest to use—if they can actually get what they want, or get a great deal. This website from the UK is owned by one of the most successful auto sales/leasing sites in the country, but… boy, it’s a retina-burner.
However, if you are a small business wanting to take advantage of the marketing and SEO benefits of a website, you can’t afford one that is frustrating to navigate or (ironically in the case of Yale’s graphic design school website), terrible to look at.
Here’s an example of a site with an effectively non-functional navigation. Note that when you roll over the links at the top, menus pop up. But when you slowly move your cursor down to select a menu item, the menus disappear. Also note that the text on the “need an appraisal” link on the top right is improperly spaced and barely legible.
The Mr. Bottles site actually doesn’t LOOK that bad. It’s not a blank page of links or confusing text. But it’s not working properly and causes frustration.
Another huge no-no is having an auto-loading flash video or—heaven forbid—sound file that takes forever to load and kills any visitors’ interest before they even get started.
3. Your website includes no links to your social feeds (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
Building a small business website is an effective part of your online presence, but it can’t be the only part. You need to stay current on your online reviews on sites like Google my Business, Yelp, and TripAdvisor, and you need to maximize your local SEO by building a robust social media presence and engage current and potential customers.
Your website should include links to all your social media accounts, and vice versa. Have you noticed how every successful business includes Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram icons on every site and online ad? That’s not by accident.
4. Your website doesn’t actually let people do anything
Those of us who were around for the birth of the business website in the 1990s remember that simply having a website gave your business credibility… even if you couldn’t actually learn, buy, or sell anything there.
However, today, a website that proffers your visitors no ability to do stuff like place reservations / order food or delivery / purchase products / schedule an appointment / click for more info / etc. seems, well, pointless.
Now, don’t get us wrong. Ecommerce is definitely not a must-have for small, local businesses. However, as can be seen from the explosion of mobile ordering in the QSR (quick service restaurant) world, any strides you can make in building an online-sales-friendly experience will go a long way toward modernizing your website, and your business.
Online shopping cart functionality is available a very reasonable rate, so if you can figure out how you can sell some of your goods and services via your website, you’ll be ahead of the curve.
You may find that you can build your clientele and reach a broader audience of technically local but inconveniently distanced customers by offering low-cost shipping options for non-perishable goods.
To be sure, a simple, clean webpage that lists your correct location, hours of operation, contact info, and business boilerplate IS much more valuable than not having a website at all. But you can do a lot better in today’s online environment.
5. Your website doesn’t tell your story
A website is a fantastic opportunity for your business to show off your goods or services and tell your story.
If your site feels like an impersonal “empty space” with not much info about your business and why you exist, there’s not much point to it.
Here’s an example of a site that fails to meet the potential of a good small business website. I’ve never wanted a cupcake less in my life.
Even if you decide that selling or redirecting customers isn’t the best course of action for your business website right now, don’t miss the opportunity to tell visitors why your business exists, who you are, and why they should consider giving you their hard-earned money.
Save time with reputation management software
Maintaining a high-quality, high-value website can take a lot of time—time many small business owners simply don’t have. Anywhere you can increase efficiency, you should.
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