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Articles by Company Owner David Rew

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One thing I have found over the last 20 years of doing this sort of thing is almost always your opinion about your DIY website is that it is pretty much just as good as a professional website...ummmm, nope.

Now, that is not to say you shouldn't have a go at building a website yourself, absolutely, give it a go, and don't get me wrong, some do achieve amazing result too. Building your own website is fun and of course there is a sense of achievement when it's completed too!

Even better, the most wonderful thing about building your own website is that no matter how dysfunctional it is as a website or how ugly it really is a design (in a medium where design absolutely matters), almost all of your friends, all your relatives and even all your online pals, will be extremely complimentary about your new baby. Why? Well because everyone knows you spent all that time putting it together, they know how proud you are of it (because you did it yourself) and as a result no one wants to tell you your website looks like something the cat dragged in...

So, did build your website for the compliments or for the income it will bring?

For most people a website is not a 'bit of fun', it's a proper business (at some level), if there is an expectation of a commercial outcome then treat it so.

Your 'front page' has 15-20 seconds to make an impact on the surfer when they arrive on your website (they say 16secs but I am just rounding). Really, it doesn't matter how good the product is, if your site looks amateurish and 'home-made' then a large portion will leave and take their wallet with them - and you will never ever know they did. That's reality.

So, if you must DIY, here's few tips

Don't clutter your front page with all that damn writing!

Why the first page is so complicated is beyond reason, if the surfer really wants to know more they will find the information via the menu; the average webizen is very clued up on how to surf a website, yours is not the first one they have been to so there is no need to shove all the info on the first page.

We built this hobby/business website www.vintagemovieposters.com.au The best thing about this particular hobby is that it sells posters and yes, a picture is worth (you know the rest).

So why fill up the front page telling the visitor who you are, where you are based, what you are selling, how to use the website, how long you've been in the hobby, the name of your dog, the colour of your socks and so on....ZZZzzzzzzz, unlike your friends and your relatives, Joe-Average buyer does NOT care!

This tip is even more important if you are running a webshop then remove the clutter and start selling on the first page. Sell first ask questions later!

You sell on eBay therefore don't need a website?

If you use eBay then why not have a back-up plan. Get yourself your own commercial website to run alongside the eBay one - you've got the database of your eBay clients who are happy with what they bought off you, point them at your other website for other purchases and more profit.

Free websites

Hmmm...so, you want a professional looking website/webshop, you want to spend about an hour or so building it, you want to spend almost no money outfitting it, you want to spend no money marketing it, you want to put up pictures of the items you are selling taken with your phone-camera on the floor of your dining room, you want to get a lot of traffic, oh and everyday you expect lots of orders because you want to make money hand over fist immediately because your friends said it would go well.

Yep, that how it works in bricks and mortar business too...

Make it EASY for your Customer To Purchase

If you sell items on your own website but do so by the old "send me an email with what you want, then I will send you a bill, then you pay, then I will wait for the money to clear etc..."

If you cannot achieve two clicks to purchase then you are losing business.

Face to Face

I hear this so often, the statement that one needs to meet the web designer. Why is it you don't care about selling internationally but care so much about designing locally? So what you are saying is you expect your clients to trust you without meeting you but...?

SEO - Search Engine Optimisation.

Ahhhhh - here's a secret...if you build it they will NOT come. You really have to understand what you are doing, and it takes quite a while.

If Google themselves say you CANNOT be guaranteed a top spot in search results (excluding paid ads), then why believe any of those SEO companies that say they can achieve it? Bottom line, search results are driven by your website content and it's a hard job to get the content right, it's not learnt in 5 minutes and if you don't know what you are doing then good luck. Here's a real world example...

Type vintage poster restoration into Google (I did it for you, click th link, but you can try too), go ahead I'll wait..

I haven't checked in a while but hopefully the results are that on the first page www.vintagemovieart.ca in the results on that first page (whether it is google.com, google.co.uk, google.com.au or even google.ca), before we built Dario's website he had a homemade one and he didn't even feature in the first 30 pages of the international search results, what was worse on Google Canada he didn't feature in the first 10 pages (and he lives in Canada!)!

It took almost four months of hard work and tweaks to start getting decent results, now as the result of his talent when combined into his website a bit better his site ranks well. He now gets as many people visiting his website in one year as he did in the 10 years he had from his old 'home-made' website. He also tells us he has never been so busy and blames his new website...

"Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he will sit in a boat drinking beer all day" Sure you can learn SEO, understanding it to then make it work for you is the hardest part.

Social media - ignore it at your peril.

At the very least you should have a Facebook page running in conjunction with your website, just because you don't understand about FB (or care about it) doesn't actually mean your clients do - 'nuff said.

Remember that old bumper sticker, "Ass, grass or gas - nobody rides for free". Having a business website is hard work, don't expect to set it and forget it and then watch the orders and money to come flowing...

...good luck!

As well as building websites we spend a fair amount of time surfing them too, the two go hand in hand. Now despite what you might think there is a science to a website design and how to keep the consumer interested, here's not the place to discuss all that fun stuff(!), besides it will likely bore most of you anyway!

So, you're considering doing a commercial website yourself DIY route (all power to you - read the article above) you might like to read these few notes I have jotted down (ok maybe not a few - there's a bit to read so maybe grab a coffee first...!).

Keep 'em Coming (Back)

So, it's one thing to get them to your site, but then you have to try to get them to come back. Different things work for different types of sites, but just like the old movie serials of our youth the basics of any consumer experience should be to leave them satisfied at the end but leave them wanting to come back for more.

Amazing customer service, speedy deliveries, first rate contact is frankly what the consumer ALREADY expects but they also expect a surfing experience that is not filled with annoying speed bumps along the way. 

If there is one thing you should bear in mind when it comes to website (design) specially when it comes to a webshop, there is no need for you (or your web designer) to be cute! Being so different from almost every other standard webshop out there just makes your site annoying to use. No, it's not fun, awesome or clever to be so different (even if you think it is), purchasing things for money is not rocket science so please don't make your consumer need a degree in it when they visit your website.

So You've Built It - Will They Come And If They Do WIll They Stay?

Now sure, you've done it on the cheap because a friend did it and it looked great so you, your wife and your cousin's nephew Cletus have slapped together a website with letters that blink (because you learnt some html back in 1998), massive banners all over it (because you've got a free program on your computer so how hard can it be), and purple on black with green text is your favourite colour so use it everywhere.

And now I hear you say: "A a new website? Pfffft!". Afterall your home-made design has worked all these years so why change it now, besides this is not face to face to selling like the good old days (love that phrase), and it's not like the real world (well actually it IS the real world) and besides you have great stuff that everyone wants so design shouldn't matter that much..." Well maybe you shouldn't read on because to be honest the consumer today has way different expectations for their surfing experience...

TWO CLICK...

purchasing is very important, however these days there is no real need to have to force the consumer to 'sign-up' first either. We both know why you do it (so you can get their email to direct market to them), but why not let them make the purchase with the least amount of things to fill in as possible - as soon as they have committed to pay they will happily hand over ALL their details.

CONTACT PAGE

Yopu should of course have one but try to make it with as little information required as possible - do you really need to know the writer's mother's maiden name or their dog's DNA just to allow them to ask you a question? Develop the relationship during the email exchanges not in the contact form. Also, if you are going to take money off me then I really think it's fair that I know your postal address and contact phone number.

DO NOT...
have 'Under Construction' on any part of your site, either: your entire site is down for some brief maintenance or it is a current website, the fact it needs some work done on it should never be pointed out (but should be fixed immediately anyway!).
ABOUT ME/US PAGE
Absolutely, have one, make it interesting and to the point - it's not a diary of your life we want to read just what qualifies you to sell me stuff.
BE CURRENT
What year is it? How many of you have updated your website to say (c) Joe Bloggs Websites with the current year? Actually, and this is the scary thing....how many of you have updated your website's copyright date, EVER?!
SITE COUNTERS

I don't care how many people have visited your site before I got there, none of us do - only you do - keep it to yourself because site counters are so last century!

GOOGLE ANALYTICS

The best (hidden) site counter out there, it's free and a MUST have, how else do you know your website is going?

YOUR MENU

If I click on an item on your menu and it takes me to a page that is either not there or 'Under Construction' then why-oh-why is it ON the menu?!

FIFTY FONTS

Unless you think books and newspaper publishers got it wrong then you should try to restrict the number of different fonts you use on a website to maybe 2 or 3, and don't be too cute with the font type just because it looks pretty...

DO NOT...

force my browser to open new tabs every time I click on something I want to read on YOUR website, but...

DO...

force my browser to open new tabs every time I click on a link to some OTHER website (allowing the client to leave your site by closing the connection to it is just a NO-NO!)

DO NOT

write content or articles in word or similar and then scan it as a picture to load on your website to be read.

TEXT SIZE

Do get it right because I've got money and if I can't read about what I am buying you can't see my money.

CROSS BROWSER FRIENDLY

There is more than one out there and they all don't 'render' (display) websites quite the same.

FASHION SENSE

Most of you leave it up to your wife to choose the colours when it comes to decorating the house, picking the furniture or even choosing the right tie for that function tonight, so why is it you suddenly develop a sense of fashion when it comes to web colours?! Again, there is a lot of science that goes into what colours best combine with what...

NEWSLETTERS

Great idea!! Keep your existing members up to date with a newsletter (which MUST have an opt-out option - in almost all countries this is law), but for goodness sake, make them interesting and keep them BRIEF! Screeds of writing appeals to no-one (except you), throw in a few images too.

Think of your newsletter like that daily online newspapers you now read, NONE of them will have the full article on the homepage (unlike most real newspapers), all have a title (some with an image) and then intro text with a link to further reading. Rule of thumb: your entire monthly Newsletter (emailed to your member) should be able to be printed on a standard piece of printer paper (and still be readable), if it is more than that then I will use a four letter word: EDIT. You have nothing to say that is so important half the Amazon rain forest needs to be culled...

I would recommend using a professional newsletter delivery company, these are a cheap and very professional options that will allow you to use one of their (many) excellent templates, deliver your newsletter to your mailing list and provide you with feedback, such as how many were opened, what articles were clicked on etc etc - you might think you know what your customers like to read but stats don't lie...

DISCOUNT CODES
- (not to be confused with GIFT vouchers, also very good, but not as popular as you think). These are great way to bring people back, they're instant, can be time-restrictive (valid until...) and dependent on the site design can also be restricted to certain categories (e.g. 30% off 3 sheet posters this week-end etc), these codes can often be included in your Newsletters too. They work by allowing your client to type in the special code at the check-out and it deducts the value automatically - excellent!

OUT OF STOCK

Displaying lots of products for sale that is also mixed in with products that are actually sold is simply poor design and is extremely annoying for the consumer (despite all your logic, pop along to Amazon etc and look at all their sold outs they display).

PAYMENT OPTIONS

This is a hard one, ideally offer as many as you can but reality is many can't afford all the costs that go with setting that up - something like PayPal takes care of that, they take major credit cards and they don't require your client to sign up - your cost is deducted at purchase, there is no transaction fees, no minimum monthly costs, no bank fees there is no annual SSL fees and so on. Sure, if you have a big enough turnover then it is cheaper the other way, but for most small dealers it is not - but you need to work that out on a case by case basis.

FLUFFY DICE AND NEON LIGHTS

Not needed. If you run a webshop then please don't let your web designer try to convince you to add all those extra little bells and whistles because it's the latest most current design trend - the basics of a retail experience hasn't changed: you have what they want and they have what you want - so try and exchange those things as quickly and as easily as possible. Far too many web designer over complicate things because a basic design website isn't as much fun or expensive as the geeky one he wants to build you.

EXTRAS

Offer more than just product, maybe have articles, info, industry news etc etc - it brings them back, it can makes your newsletter interesting (ergo they click to go to your website) and, is very VERY good for SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). I've gotten to chat with people over the years who have some great information in their head but it would be even better on their website.

TRUST...

your web designer because once you've checked them out and committed then maybe let them do what they do best. Of course there are some out there that will remove as much as possible from your wallet as possible, this can be a rogue industry no doubt about it. But there are some who care about the client as much as the design, they will take care of you, it will be a personal experience for you well worth paying the dollars for. Obviously check them out first because sure, you can get a website for $399, but honestly it's a commercial website for $399 - but really, what did you expect, ongoing support, care and attention..?

STOP BEING A CHEAP-ASS!

You're in business, your web designer is in business - good, now you understand.

That said, if yours is a hobby/semi-commercial website then sure you don't have tens of thousands of dollars to spend (nor do you have to) but you charge a pretty penny for your product and won't spend a few dollars on a good modern website/shop? Personally I love seeing $500 items for sale on a $50 website, always fills me with confidence to buy...

EVOLVE!

The internet is evolving fast, as is design...you could at least make an effort to try and keep up a little better than you have been. Today's consumer/surfer is smarter, expects a whole lot more and is far less patient than 5, 10 or 15 years ago, home-made and/or bad design just doesn't cut it any more.

Sure you can keep your old design and be happy with your lot, eventually your client will move on to better and easier places to shop (in some cases they already have). If you are happy being that corner hardware store and sit there with old Bill, reminisce and chew tobaccy every Saturday along with your old wooden drawer where you keep the week's takings then that's great...but the bell on the door doesn't ring as often as it used to does it does it, specially since that whipper-snapper opened his shop with clean shelves, no clutter on the floor and one of those new new fangled lectric money thingamajigs, and yep, he is smart enough to know he has to offer great personal service too...

I hope the above was food for thought, it's just one man's opinion in a room where everyone including the client, has an expert one. I probably struck too close to home about some of your sites (none were specifically in mind when I wrote this) so I apologise if I offended, but you probably would cry if you knew how many people gave up on your site as the result of the design or difficulty it was surfing/buying something from it.

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