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(Expert Feature) 3 Ways Your Website Can Help – Or Hinder – Your Customers

How your website was designed can either encourage people to do business with you, or turn them away. By looking at some basic, critical factors, you can improve the rate at which people decide to do business with you.












 Photo by antoniolas

Your website is typically the first thing that your customers will see before stepping into your establishment – and thus making a decision about doing business with you – or not.

Unfortunately, so many websites fail to provide the basic components that will at least get someone to call them. If your website is difficult to navigate, hard to find the basic information, or just doesn’t instill trust, your customers will just click “back” and go elsewhere.

When I give talks to business owners, I always tell them that the website is often your first, and possibly last opportunity to encourage someone to do business with you. If your website fails some basic tests, you may be losing money because of it.

Three Basic Components That All Websites Must Have

I’ve looked at thousands of websites. You probably have too. But I’m also a Certified Usability Analyst® trained at Human Factors International.

Whether you built your own website, used a WordPress template or paid a professional to design it for you, I hope you’ll take these ideas and look at your own website with a bit of a critical eye to see how you can improve things.

If your website is missing any of the critical elements that I’ll describe here, you should invest some time and/or money to fix it. This is my top three list that all websites must have, and the first item has to have three sub-elements.


  • Professionally designed website
  • Call to action
  • You-focused content

1. Professional Web Design

These days, it’s so easy to have a fantastic looking website, that to me, it’s almost a crime when someone feels that they can do it from scratch without any design or web flow knowledge.

If you use WordPress, Joomla!, Drupal, DotNetNuke, or any of a bunch of other content management sites for your website, there are scores of free or low-cost templates that you can bolt on with little effort. This will give your website a good, well-designed look.

But you need more than that.

Horizontal Navigation – From a usability perspective, it’s almost expected nowadays that the website has a horizontal navigation bar. It takes up very little real estate, doesn’t push your content down very far, and people mostly expect it.

A vertical nav bar is OK, but make sure it’s on the left side, not on the right. Never split your navigation with a horizontal and a vertical. It makes it confusing for the person using your website, and they may get frustrated and leave.

Contact Information – Do you want your customers to call you? Perhaps they should stop by your shop? Or maybe you prefer they e-mail you. Put it in the top-left corner of every page!

Heat map studies show that the majority of us in the western world start at the top-left corner of every web page. Put your critical contact information at the very top left so it’s easy to find. Never bury it at the bottom in tiny font or worse yet, only have it on the “Contact” page.

Trust Building Factors – “People buy into you before they buy from you.” I repeat that often. If your customers don’t trust you, they won’t give you money. It’s that simple.

Make sure you have testimonials, BBB logo, chamber membership logos, HackerSafe logos or anything else that proves to a visitor that you mean business and you’ve got a great reputation. It matters, and studies have shown that sales go up when you have them on your website.

2. Call To Action

What is it that you want people to do in order to do business with you? Is it sign up for your newsletter? Call you? Download a freebie from your site?

Every single page on your website should have a big fat button that essentially says, “Click me to do business with me!” Don’t make it difficult for your potential customer to figure it out. Make it clear, big and bold, and only have ONE call-to-action.

You might have a secondary call-to-action, but never give them too many. More choices just means they will typically choose none.

3. “You” Focused Content

Finally, it’s so easy to write (or tell) about ourselves and all the wonderful things we’ll do for our customers. Unfortunately, it’s also boring, and not very engaging. If I need to hire a lawyer, I know what they do. I want to make sure they understand MY problem, and that they can fix MY problem.

Make your web copy “you” focused, instead of focusing on “we do this” or “we sell that”. Talk about the problems your potential customers might be having.

Go to the We We Calculator and see how “you” focused or “we” focused your content is.
What score did you get?

If you didn’t get a good score, try turning the content around to talk about your customers’ problems, not all the great stuff you do. I like to use the “If then” formula. “If you’re someone who is having a problem with xyz, then …” Try to focus on your customer more and your customers will engage with you more easily.

By changing just a few basic items on your website, you can turn a browser into a customer, instead of someone who never got in touch with you. Tell me in the comments how you have made changes to your own website or what results you got.


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About Thomas Petty (46 Articles)
Thomas Petty teaches beginning and advanced digital marketing workshops to business owners who want to get found online. He is a popular blogger and speaker and has regular SEO training classes and updates at his company, the Bay Area Search Engine Academy. He holds a monthly series of free SEO and digital marketing webinars that are open to those who want to learn some online marketing techniques that they can implement right away.

4 Comments on (Expert Feature) 3 Ways Your Website Can Help – Or Hinder – Your Customers

  1. Hmmm. Looks like I might need to make some changes. 🙂

  2. Tom, Great post on the fundamental elements of a professional website. Based on what you’ve said I need to add my contact info to every page. I’d like to ask you a few questions related to the content. What do you think of a pop-up that shows after a site visitor has been on the site for at least 30 seconds? It would invite the visitor to join my mailing list.

    Next, you mention each page should have but one action you want the reader to take. Well, I’d like any and all qualified visitors to join my mailing list, which is why the sign-up box is on every page. However, that’s not the sole action I want people to take. I’d also like them to contact me for services. Is this violating your rule?

    • Hi Michael, Thanks, I’m glad it helped. To answer your questions:

      Personally, I’m not a fan of pop-ups. They annoy the heck out of me. If I’m in the middle of reading something and it pops up, interrupting me, now I’m annoyed and more likely to leave. BUT, I would test it. Pick your most popular pages (look at Google Analytics data, don’t just make it up) and split them in half. Put the pop up on one half, and the regular form on the other half. Which works better? Always measure.

      If your primary call-to-action is to sign up for a newsletter, then make that very clear so people can do that without thinking. But like you said, you may have a secondary c-t-a that you want them to do (like pick up the phone and call you). That’s perfectly fine. Just make sure it’s clear, and easy to see or do (like a phone number at the top of every page).

      I like to offer people a free 15 minute consultation. They can put a time on my calendar that THEY choose, and I get their e-mail and phone number. TimeTrade ( is a great little tool for this – costs $29 bucks a year or something ridiculous, and it’s terrific for engaging potential clients.

      Hope that helps!

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