A website is not something you just build, then leave sitting there, unattended, for the rest of it’s existence. In fact, in order to improve your website, and build our business, it’s important to continually strive to make improvements to your user’s experience at your website.
This website of mine, Thoughts and Designs, has been around since 2004 (back then it was known as “Joyful Momma”, but I’ve been rebranding it now that my kids are adults, and the mommy blogger thing no longer quite fits).
As a result, it’s gone through many changes, improvements, and a few failures too. My ADHD has given me loads of material and too many distractions along the way. As a part of the rebranding process, I did something uncharacteristic for me. I made myself not touch the actual website for a full year, while working offline, on paper, to come up with a plan to improve my site, under the guidance of a more experienced friend. I decided on the offline part because I needed to pull myself away without distraction. It worked.
Thus far, the improvements have been, well, improvements, as gauged by Google Analytics and Google Adsense (as well as actual feedback from regular visitors). So, yippee for that.
With that introduction, I’m pleased to share with you 12 tips you can do to improve your own website.
12 Tips to Improve Your Website
1. Do Your Research
After you have thought through the purpose of your website, and have decided what it is you want your website to do for you and your visitors, it’s time to do some research to figure out what you can do to get from point A to point B.
Part of this involves looking at your website through different eyes. Most of us who own websites are so used to seeing our website as a Dashboard on the back end of things, that we don’t look often at the front of our website. Is it still working well? Does it function and flow? With changing technologies, has the layout continued to hold together?
The other part involves looking at others in your niche. What are they doing well? Are there any obvious holes in what is already there, which you might fill? How do you set yourself apart in this niche? How can you bless others in your niche?
2. Know your audience and write for them.
My more experienced friend gave me the advice to write better for my readers, I needed to write for specific readers. In other words, create reader profiles.
I hope this doesn’t sound too creepy, but I
social media stalked listened to people in my target audience for a while, then created visitor profiles, so I would understand what they need, what they were looking for, and now I write with them in mind.
I also wanted to promote the design end of my business more, and so I crafted imaginary profiles, based on people who frequently ask me design related questions. I gave them names and when I write design posts, I imagine it as a conversation with those “profile people”.
This may seem a little odd at first (It sure did to me) but writing to someone in particular instead of just rambling to yourself will help you bring your thoughts together more coherently, and be a blessing to those you’re reaching.
3. Don’t just write to stick with your schedule
For a while, while I rethought my website and scrapped it to rebuild, I wrote consistently…in MS Word, instead of publishing it on my website. Why? I wanted to see a pattern to what I was writing, and come up with a purpose and a focus.
If you’re writing just to hear yourself talk, or because you “have to” you aren’t going to be delivering the best content you could be producing.
4. Work Backwards from Your Goals and Purpose
I have written a great deal about goals and having a mission statement in other posts more generally. However, this information also applies to your goals and mission statement, your purpose, for your website. Figure out what you want your website to do. Decide what its mission is. Then, work backwards from it.
What do I mean by “work backwards”?
Start with the end goal, and think through the steps you’ll need to take to reach it.Start with the end goal, and think through the steps you'll need to take to reach it. Click To Tweet
By walking backwards, from the ultimate goal you have, you’ll have a better idea of where to start, and what path to take to get to your goals. This works for any goal, no matter the topic, by the way. Start with the end in mind.
5. Be Useful
This goes back to knowing your audience. Be useful to those you are trying to write for. What do your readers need that you can provide?
What will most people need to know or find when they first come to your site? This varies based on what kind of site you’re running.
6. Create Content First, then Organize it
In creating so many web designs for clients, I always have them tell me what they need and then I create a design. Later, they fill their design with content. This is what I was taught in some web developer courses 10 years ago, and I ran with it for years.
I’ve stopped doing this, because it’s stupid.
Instead, I say, “Create all of the content you want for this website, work out the details, and then see me.”
If it’s a blog or other information based website, which will be constantly updated, I tell them to create at least 2-5 posts in each topic, plus any extra pages they will need.
Why? Because you cannot really know how to organize your content into a design without creating the content first. I’ve made too many websites for too many clients who thought they needed this and that section. Later, as they started creating their content, they needed major changes done. I delve into this topic in more detail in the post “Content Comes First”
No. Create the content first.I cannot know how 2 organize your content into a design without the content. Write 1st Click To Tweet
You can create it either in a series of DOC files (using Google Docs, which is free, is a great idea since you can easily share with your web designer or others on your team) or within the framework of WordPress, your shopping cart, or some other CMS. I usually create content first in a DOC then I add it to WordPress. From there, I can better see how my design is working for my content.
7. Keep Navigation Simple
This topic of keeping the navigation simple also relates to tip number 6 about creating the content first. Navigation is the main links in a site that help you find the main sections of a website and the main pages.
If you’re planning to, or hoping for, a super large website full of useful information on it, you can easily create a monstrosity of navigation. Initially, all of this categorizing may seem like it’s helpful, but before long the sheer complexity of the navigation makes it even more confusing.
Even worse, I found out during a usability testing workshop that many people had no clue that further information was hidden in drop down menus in the main navigation. All of that cool programming and designing kung fu, and people missed what developers were trying to do? Sorry again, web users.
Less is more with navigation.Less is more with website navigation. Keep it simple. Click To Tweet
You’ll have an easier time deciding on navigation if you create your content first, then figure out how to organize it in a logical, useful way for your visitors.
8. Plan your marketing with your posts and content
When creating each fresh post and content, think about how you’ll be marketing that individual post or page.When creating each post think about marketing that individual post or page. Click To Tweet
This affects two aspects of creating content for me.
- I create each piece of content as it might be the first thing my reader will ever see on my website, because it just might be. I need to make sure to direct them to other parts of my site with related information, and help them find their way around my site easily. Some of this relates to my WordPress Theme, and some if it is my writing style and the links I put into my posts.
- I create sharable content for each fresh piece of content on my site, and plan for how I’m going to share it on social media. In some cases, I try to plan this marketing along with holidays and special events that relate to the content. I make sure that there are good keywords in the content, and that each piece of content is optimized for the best keywords in the niche. I use a WordPress Plug in called Yoast WordPress SEO to help me check on the keywords and SEO for each posts.
9. Write in Journalism Style
With what is called “journalism style”, the most important content is at the very top, allowing the reader to have an overview of what the article is about.
People don’t read online the way they read a book or a magazine. The tend to skim first to see if the content is worth their time. Write your content in such a way that, while skimming, they’ll be able to find what they are looking for at a glance.
- use bullet lists
- break apart content with headlines
- highlight important content with bold or italics
- never hide important information in a large block of text
…among other things.
10. Do not ever create a link with the words “Click here”
The words that are created into a link are supposed to tell the reader and the search engines something about the destination of the link. “Click Here” means nothing. Highlight relevant text when creating links.
11. Be Consistent once you start.
Less frequently but consistently is better than planning often but totally inconsistent.
This is, again, where my ADHD comes back to bite me. 🙂 I would have great intentions that I couldn’t stick with. Instead, determining to write one or two posts per week and actually creating quality content on set schedule is far better than planning to post daily, then failing miserably.
12. It’s okay to Back Date or Schedule Posts
Being consistent doesn’t mean you always post on that day. It only means that your post publishes on that day.
It’s okay to write things ahead of time, and schedule them to publish. In fact, that’s probably a better idea, since it gives you time to sit on a topic, re-read it later, and make sure it’s “just right”. This is easy to do in most content management systems, including WordPress.
It’s also okay to back date posts, making them appear to have been written years ago.
In my rebranding process, at some point I found a huge backup of my old site that I thought was lost forever. I went through some of the posts, and figured out which ones I wanted to keep. I edited them a bit, fixed them up, and then published them with an older date. The content was still good, and I felt it provided good information that I could link to in future posts I was planning to write.
By scattering the posts, I didn’t have to look like I was publishing 23 articles on the same day (which I did actually do on a few Saturdays). Instead, the posts looked more normally spread out over the months and years when I originally wrote them.