written by Kate Fuller

Demystifying the Dark Arts Podcast | Episode Two: Let’s talk websites

You never get a second chance to make a first impression, and when it comes to websites, this old adage couldn’t be truer.

In episode two of our digital marketing “blodcast” series Demystifying the Dark Arts, we delve a little further into the wonderful world of websites, and why making a good first impression is essential to your online brand integrity.

Ultimately, your website is your shop front, your reception desk, your entrance hall, so you need to make it as welcoming and easy to navigate as possible, otherwise people will leave…and may never come back.

But don’t take our word for it, 75%  of consumers admit to making judgements on a company’s credibility based on their website design.

In episode one we talked about SEO, and explained that the key to good SEO is making sure you “answer your customers questions” better than anyone else. And this all starts on your website.

How do you know what questions to answer? Look at your offer, your product, your brand and think about what people might be searching for, in order to find you.

If you sell shoes, make sure your website clearly and simply states that you “sell shoes” not good looking ankles or pretty people or fashionable clothing.

Make sure it’s easy for people to find the style and colour of the shoes they might be looking for, and make it easy for them to see the price and then check out.

Make the experience beautiful, yes, but above all make it functional.

Here are our top tips for making your website more functional, so that your first impression lasts, and lasts and lasts…

Speed

No, we’re not talking about the 1994 classic film, featuring Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock (although we’d certainly recommend watching it).

When we talk about “speed” in the context of websites we mean the time it takes to load a webpage.

Did you know that 53% of mobile users will bounce (leave your website) if the page they’re on takes more than 3 seconds to load?

We’re impatient young souls, aren’t we?

The trouble is, the average Australian website takes 3.7 seconds to load, which means there are a lot of websites out there that aren’t even getting a look-in because of their below-par page load speed.

So how can you get your website to load faster?

A simple fix is to delete any plugins (or ye olde widgets) that aren’t serving you or your customers. Do you really need that big old clumsy Instagram wall on your homepage? Or could you just add an Instagram icon link instead?

*SIDE BAR: Some plugins may be imperative to the function of your site. Make sure you consult your website developer before making changes or deleting things.

Another fairly simple way to speed things up is to delete big files, like videos, and reduce the resolution size of your photos. Does that massive slider at the top of your homepage still spark joy? If not. Marie Kondo it!

If a quick front-end tidy up doesn’t work, a more long-term investment “behind the scenes” may be needed, which leads us to code bloat.

Code bloat

The reality is, not everyone is website savvy, or a coding expert, which makes it very easy for the average everyday marketing guru to let the functionality and quality of their website slip, right under their noses.

In the words of Cher from Clueless (circa 1995), there are a whole bunch of websites out there that are “Full on Moet’s” – from a distance they look OK, but up close they’re a big old mess!

Code bloat is a major cause of this mess but if you can’t see it, how do you know it’s there?

A bloated code – Nanna-style

Quite commonly, website developers use themes to create websites, which makes it easy for them to build and manipulate your site into the good-looking rooster it is.

But if, down the track, you ask your developer to make it even better looking by manipulating the theme, or more useful by adding a new plugin to the site – say a fancy new subscriber form, or a checkout function – they’ll obediently go ahead and do it for you.

They’re nice guys, that’s what they do.

The problem is, they’ll often add that new plugin code on top of the original website theme code, on top of the code they used to manipulate that original theme, and so on.

Code + more code + extra code = CODE BLOAT!

The first step to avoid this bloating catastrophe is to develop a good relationship with your web developer. Allow them to educate you, tell them what you’d like to achieve, and ask what they’d recommend as the best solution…without causing a mess in your back end.

No pun intended.

Hosting

Another simple, and relatively inexpensive, way to make your website faster is to change hosting providers.

Again, ask your website developer to recommend a provider that will offer the fastest page speed. Developers are helpful. Chat to one today!

Build a new one

If all else fails, and if you have the budget, we’d recommend building a new website rather than fix an old one.

Technology moves so fast these days that nine times out of ten it’s easier, cheaper and much more effective to build a new website than it is to try and make an oldie a goodie.

If you’re a marketing manager you should always have some budget set aside for website development and maintenance – it’s your shop front after all.

So next time someone (a lead, customer, client) hits your website, get them to linger longer by increasing your page speed and reducing bloat, so it’s love at first sight!

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