What’s on your to-do list this year for your business? Have you decided to update your current website and give it a fresh new look?

Before you take any action, keep these three things in mind.

1. Who visits your website?

How did you design your current website? Chances are you found a designer ( or did it yourself), used a template or theme that was suggested to you, added your colors and style, and put information in much like everyone else does. In other words, your site probably looks like everyone else’s with little thought as to why it ended up that way.

Its an easy trap to fall into. And while it may seem logical to fill a website with information about you and conform with the industry standard, that may not be the best thing for your business.

Businesses have different goals and different clientele. They have different demographics and different ways of connecting with visitors. And without taking that into consideration when you design, you’re leaving out a lot of opportunity.

First, look at the profile of the people that visit your website. What are they looking for? Are they busy moms who want to get in and out quickly, finding the right information instantly? Are they newly engaged, willing to spend hours learning about planning the perfect wedding? Are they executives who know exactly what they want and are looking into your site to see if you can provide it?

Demographics are the key to a great design. The more you know about your visitors, the more you understand what their needs are, the more you can connect with them through your online presence.

It’s also important to understand the average age of your visitors. If you are targeting high school seniors, a fun, quirky site might be the perfect design. Yet if you are targeting 50+ grandmothers, an easy to navigate, larger type setting may bring in more business.

Don’t start with the look and feel, think from your visitors perspective first.

2. Why do your visitors come to your website?

Once you know who your visitor is, its easier to give them what they are looking for.

Keep in mind that you may have different visitors, in which case you have to provide different paths. For instance a newly engaged couple will want information on planning a wedding, where as a newly married couple will be looking for the easiest way to share their online proofs with her family and friends.

If you aren’t sure about what a client would want from your website, ask. Ask them at different times of the process as well – a new customer who just signed a contract will have different needs and desires than a client that just picked up her final order. You’ll probably hear a lot of “I wish I could do this on your site…”, which will give you the perfect indication of what other clients would enjoy as well.

It’s also easy to fall into the trap of finding other photographers, assuming their websites are “cool” and the “in thing” and decide to mimic their site. Study it first. Is it just a difficult design, adding a lot of pizzazz without any real substance? Photographers are notorious for liking “flash” and “wow”, when in reality most visitors simply want an easy site to navigate that allows them to effortlessly see what you do.

3. Are they able to find what they are looking for? If not, why?

Your site may offer a ton of information to your visitors. But if its poorly constructed or organized, it may be difficult to find.

Studies have been conducted on many websites across industries and they have found that up to 40 percent of site visitors end up leaving a site because they can’t find what they are looking for. Common causes of poor performance include poor navigation, unclear links, poorly chosen names, site errors and technical issues.

This isn’t a time to get “cute” with your language. Give people exactly what they are looking for. If they want to contact you, they will look for a nav button that says “Contact Us”. They don’t want to spend minutes deciphering your code and figure out where to go.

Instead of looking at your site through your eyes, look through a customers. Think of one client in particular and navigate the site through her eyes. Will she know where to go? Will she know what to do next? Will she understand how to contact you when she’s ready – and can she do it from every page?

Once you have your design ideas down, don’t let designers talk you out of it. Many designers out there today love the “wow” and don’t understand marketing. Stick with your plans and get what you want.

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