Five ways of improving a web site design for free

Recently I decided to answer a question on LinkedIn, “What are 5 ways to improve a web site design for free?”  Typically, these are the types of questions I avoid for a variety of reasons however I this to be an interesting opportunity to get past the ordinary technical responses. 

First and more important, nothing is free! Even if you do not have a financial investment, what is the price on your time and how do you value it?  Regardless, here are a few ideas.

  1. Research – Understand your product and/or service. Focus on how you deliver the message about your product and/or service. 
    1. Does it clearly delivery a promise or solution to your customers?
    2. What is your point of differentiation from competitors?  Is it clearly delivered in your web site’s content?
    3. How often does your web site content need to be updated based upon seasonal, economic or industry changes? Are your customers engaged by the content on the web site?  Is this reflective within the web site metrics?
  2. Research – Understand your target audience(s).
    1. Do you know who your target customers are for the web site?
    2. Do you know what information they need or what information will help them make their purchase decision?  It is possible to use online survey software to help determine this information or contact some of your best and trusted customers and ask them directly.  They will appreciate your motivation to better service them.
    3. Ask target audience how they look for information online; what search engines they use and what keywords and phrases they use.
    4. Do you know how they are finding your web site?  How are users finding the web site?  Review web site metrics to determine if traffic is coming from referring sites and which ones or search engines and which keywords.  If your web site is not receiving at least 60% traffic from search engines using the most obvious keywords, e.g. your company name or product, it would be a good investment to research SEO or contact a search optimization specialist.
  3. Test – View your web site using all browsers and operating systems.  Do not just use your browser and operating system of choice, review your web site metrics and determine the top three most popular browsers, versions and screen resolutions to determine how customers are viewing your web site.  Often this can help determine many obvious design changes to better serve online users.
  4. Test again – Get input from your target audience(s).
    1. Ask your trusted customers to sit and view the web site with you. If possible, go to their location so you can see how your web site looks on their computer and monitor.
    2. Discuss what they like and don’t like about the content of your web site as well as the overall look and feel.
    3. Ask them based upon the look and feel, what impression of your business, products and services does it represent?
    4. Follow how they use your web site including what they view first, on their own, as well as what they don’t view.
    5. Ask how they research what they need online and what search phrases they use to find it?
  5. Analyze – Study your web site metrics, e.g. Google Analytics or other software and view traffic patterns.
    1. How users are finding the web site? Search engine, keywords, and referring web sites.
    2. How they are progressing thru the web site and what common exit patterns exist?
    3. What content are users most interested in viewing within the web site?

There are a variety of other topics from a technical perspective that could be considered for improving a web site’s design however it is always best to start with research and a plan.  It is best to take time to better understand your product and/or service as well as your target audience.

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