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Directive has been serving the Oneonta area since 1993, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

7 Things Upstate New York Businesses Get Wrong About Web Design

7 Things Upstate New York Businesses Get Wrong About Web Design

Having a good web presence is important for any organization, but what makes a good website has evolved over the last several years. Let’s discuss a handful of major mistakes we often see local businesses make when it comes to their online presence.

Your Website Isn’t Mobile Friendly

We’re going to start with the ginormous elephant in the room. If your website isn’t designed around mobile users, your website is going to be a miserable experience for a decent chunk of your audience. In fact, there’s a pretty high chance that you are reading this very blog on a mobile device.

We can look at our analytics and see that over 45% of our average traffic comes in through a mobile device. About half of that traffic is using an Android, and the other half is an Apple device. Depending on the type of business you run, you might see even more mobile traffic. Either way, if around half of your web traffic is on mobile devices, you NEED to accommodate them.

Older websites just don’t do a good job at doing this. Modern designs utilize mobile responsive elements that allow the website to scale based on the screen resolution of the device that is visiting it. It gives mobile users a similar, but much more accessible experience. If you pull up your website and it’s hard to read and navigate on a mobile device, it’s time to look into a redesign.

Menus and Other Important Information are Downloadable PDFs

This is a major sin for local restaurants, but it is something that other businesses and organizations need to be aware of. For our example though, we will use a restaurant, because I think we’ve all had this experience.

You go on to the restaurant’s website on your smartphone to look at their take-out menu and tap on the link to open it.

Nothing happens.

You tap again.

Still nothing. The page remains unchanged.

That’s when you realize that you’ve downloaded several copies of a PDF of their menu. Most phones tend to do this in the background, leaving it up to the user to figure out how to find and open the PDF. Granted, most phones can open PDFs just fine and there are plenty of apps that will do it, but your website just forced the user to fish around and figure it out.

Now this document is stored on their phone, and if the website owner didn’t do a good job naming their PDF, the user will probably never find it again, and the next time they want to order takeout, they will run through the same process again, storing yet another copy of your menu on their device. 

It’s a small annoyance, but an annoyance nonetheless.

Don’t rely on conveying important information in a PDF or some other document. It’s fine if your organization uploads its board of directors meeting minutes as a PDF, or you offer nice printable fliers and brochures for your users to download, but critical information that your visitors will want right away shouldn’t be relegated to downloadable documents. Put it on the page and keep it updated there.

Also, if you do keep PDF versions of brochures and other content (in addition to having the important stuff on the page itself) it doesn’t hurt to mention the last time that PDF was updated, so users know if they are even getting the most up-to-date version.

Your Website (and Other Online Listings) are Out of Date

Ever try to decide where you are going to go out to eat, only to find that the restaurant’s Google listing says they are closed, the website says they are open, and the Facebook page’s last post was from 8 months ago and says “Merry Christmas?”

Sure, it isn’t a big deal to call up a place to check to see if they are open, but you’d be saving your customers an entire step if everything was kept updated. It’s not hard to push out a quick update to social media and your directory listings (we’ll talk more about this in a minute), but it is pretty easy to forget. It’s important to set up a documented process of everything that needs to be updated when your hours of operation change, or there is some other major change to your business.

Your website needs to be easy to edit. That’s why we always recommend using a Content Management System (CMS). A CMS allows you to easily log into your website and make simple changes without needing to know any code. A good CMS can also add a ton of really great functionality to your website, such as easy-to-manage forms, events calendars, registration, blogging, and a whole lot more. 

We typically build websites using either Joomla or WordPress, two really great platforms that are widely supported, free, and easy to use, but we’re familiar with a bunch of other more specialized website solutions too.

Keeping your website updated as things change within your organization is important in a lot of ways. It gives the search engines more to look at, which in turn helps you draw in more relevant traffic. It helps your visitors understand what you actually do and provide. 

You are Ignoring Directory Listings

We started to touch on this above, but it’s worth having its own section. A decent chunk of your customers or clients will never go to your website. They simply won’t. Many users are starting to get used to the fact that they can get all of the information they need on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Yelp, 4Square, Google, Bing, and everywhere else that isn’t your actual website.

Want to know why?

Because many small businesses offer poor experiences on their websites, and these other avenues tend to do a better job. If I want to contact a company, I don’t tend to go to their website. I do a quick Google search on my phone and tap on the number in the search results. It saves me a click, and I know Google will let me tap to call, where a mobile-unfriendly website will likely make it a little harder for me. While I’m there, I can quickly see reviews, hours of operation, your location, and other information about your business. I don’t even need to bother with your website.

This doesn’t mean your website isn’t important, but you definitely need to make sure these other avenues are covered and accurate. 

Ensuring that your contact information is accurate across these directories is incredibly important. We use a really great service called Yext Powerlistings to handle this. It is a subscription service, but for smaller businesses that rely on a lot of foot traffic, it’s definitely worth having. We also highly recommend it for most any other business who wants to draw in more traffic from the search engines, because if your directory listings aren’t synchronized, it makes it harder for traffic to find you. For some businesses, running Yext for a few months is a great way to get everything squared away, and for businesses that rely on foot traffic (like restaurants, stores, and other B2C businesses) it’s worth running all the time so you can adjust things like hours and specials across all the directories at once. If you want to try out Yext, give us a call at 607.433.2200.

You’ve Abandoned Your Social Media

Again, a portion of your traffic won’t use your website, but they’ll use Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, YouTube, or TikTok. At the very least, your social media profiles need to be kept up-to-date with your hours of operation, services, and contact information. Social media is a great way to continuously engage with your existing and potential customers. A healthy social media presence can even help advertise your services for you—if other people are commenting and talking highly about what you do, it can attract others to your front door.

We recommend using platforms like Hootsuite to manage your social media. Hootsuite allows you to schedule posts across most of your social media accounts, and keep track of engagement. For example, if someone asks you a question in the comments on one of your Facebook posts, you can catch it in Hootsuite and respond. This is a great way to grant other people in your organization access to your social media too, without handing them the keys to the castle.

Your Website Isn’t Accessible

Did you know that 1 in 4 American adults have some form of disability? A large percentage of disabilities can make it harder for an individual to use the web, including visual impairments, certain motor disabilities, and even some cognitive disabilities. In some cases, a person with a disability will have software on their device that helps them comfortably use the web, but if your website isn’t built with some basic standards in mind, it will make your website a challenging or uncomfortable experience.

Accessibility has become a more prevalent part of web design, especially recently, as the Department of Justice issued updated guidelines on how your website should be accessible. We covered Accessibility extensively in a previous blog post, but it’s important to note that these guidelines start at the design phase. If your website is pretty old, or built without these standards in mind, it’s likely time to consider a redesign from the ground up.

Your Website is More About You, and Less About Your Customers

While you do want your website to talk about who you are as a company, you need to understand why a potential customer is there.

If you are a plumber, a visitor isn’t on your website to read about how you first decided to be a plumber when your great grandfather passed down his lucky drain snake on your 12th birthday. It’s more likely that they are dealing with a terrible issue and would like it fixed before it ruins their drywall. It’s fine to have a cute backstory and to add character to your online presence, don’t get us wrong, but you need to put the most focus on your visitor.

Instead of putting the focus on you, put the focus on the customer. If most of your customers find you because they have an emergency, give them a clear and easy way to get to you. For our plumber example, that’s more than just listing your number on the top of the website—actually ask “Are you dealing with a plumbing emergency? Click here to book an emergency appointment.”

There are a lot more layers to this too, and again, we aren’t saying that you can’t showcase your work, talk about your cute backstory, show off your staff and their accomplishments, and talk about all the things that make your particular business great. In fact, you’ll want to do this to a certain degree, but the initial impression of your website needs to be centered around your customers and their experience, not you.

Need Help With Your Website? Directive is the #1 Web Design Firm in the Area

We don’t mean to toot our own horn, but we’ve been providing web design services in Oneonta since 1994, and since then, we’ve launched thousands of websites for businesses all over the world.

We can help your business build a web presence that it can be proud of, and help you make informed decisions about what your website needs to succeed.

Let’s get started by talking about your goals. Give us a call at 607.433.2200 and set up an appointment.

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Saturday, October 01 2022

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