I see a lot of otherwise successful businesses that have underwhelming websites. It’s clear to tell right away that the business owner threw it together themselves (or with the free help of their newphew or neighbor), with lots of technical jargon, unsightly layout and zero usability. This says to the browser “This company is cheap and unprofessional”.

The user experience is everything. It’s like the old retail store philosophy of “as long as we carry what they’re looking for, it doesn’t matter how the store is laid out”. But once certain savvy retailers figured out that an intuitive and easy-flow store design made for an easy customer experience, they thrived while the rest died. For some the lesson was learned too late.

Why put time, effort and money into your website? Because it is fast becoming the face of your business or organization. Keep these statistics in mind:

43% of all retail sales are expected to be influeneced or made on the Internet*

83% of businesses currently use the Internet to research and find potential vendors.**

75% of web users admit to deciding on the credibility of a business or organizations based on its website appearance.***

Here are some points to keep in mind for a website that will turn a high ROI.

Get their attention ….FAST
Even if your browser does not have an attention deficit, you have roughly 5 seconds to get their attention, communicate exactly what it is you do, and entice them to take action.

Don’t make them think.
In the design elements of your website, make buttons look like buttons. Make links look like links. Provide clear direction. Don’t use cryptic symbols as the sites main navigation.

Don’t make them read (if they don’t have to).
People generally do not read on a computer screen with the same comfort and patience as reading a book. Paragraphs of text (especially on the main page) usually get scanned or skipped altogether. Bulleted lists are more effective in getting your point across. Providing long content for those who do want to read further, bold the words and phrases that get the main point across like “make more money” and “gain efficiency”, etc.

Just as an effective website can invigorate your business and turn a stunning ROI, an ineffective and unusable website can be a detriment to your business and a serious liability.

Sources for Stastics:

* Forrester: “The Web’s Impact on In-Store Sales: US Cross Channel Sales Forecast 2006 to 2012” and U.S Department of Commerce.

** Enquiro “Business to Business Survey 2007”

*** Fogg, B.J., Stanford Guidelines for Web Credbility. Persuasive Technology Lab. Stanforrd University, 2002 (revised November 2003).