Is your website still lame?

Here's high-quality advice from an expert on how to make it better.

BY Brandon Wolf

In my career, I have seen it all when it comes to web design. There has been great, there has been bad, and there has been ugly. And I have done all three myself. Through these successes and failures, I have learned the following keys to making a successful website.

A successful website starts like a successful business — you see a need in the market, and you fill it. And for filling that need, you are rewarded. The same is true of your website. We have all been sold a fairytale about websites that can magically take off and sell millions worth of products and services, but that simply isn’t true. A great website bolsters a company’s ability to conduct their current business. So your web design should reflect what you already do.

One of the most successful websites I have ever built is also the simplest. A client who runs a two-man barbershop in my hometown contacted me about building a website for his business. When we sat down and discussed his website we quickly came to the agreement that his site really only needed four things — his phone number, his address, a “book-now” button leading to an automated online booking system, and his services with prices. We dispensed with the typical “blog” and “about us” page because we didn’t see the need.

Brandon Wolf

I built the site for him and we were off to the races. That small site has for the past five years averaged 1,000 visitors a month with 90% of them being new visitors. The most visited pages are the booking page and the services page. The rest of the pages on the site get less than five visitors each month. What this project taught me is that if you can anticipate the needs of your customer and fill them quickly, then you and your website will be a success.

So what are most hardware dealer sites getting wrong?

  • Unclear call to action. We have all visited that website where you want to know one simple thing (like store hours) and you can’t find it. It is frustrating and leads to a bad impression of a business. Here’s the remedy:
  1. a) In the header of your website make sure you have the following. Phone Number, E-mail, and address (if you have multiple locations you could simply have a link to “Locations”)
  2. b) Also in your header menu have your top “services.” What are your top services? Is it rental, window repair, or lumber? Make sure there are links to these services in your header menu.
  3. c) Keep your menu choices in the header to a maximum of 4 to 6. Too many and your customers will be confused. Too few and they will simply leave.
  • A cluttered home page. You don’t want customers to get a bad impression when they enter your store – or load your website. Make sure it is clean and easy to navigate. Emphasize your best “deal,” which can be a discount, a service, or any other promotion you currently have running, or all three. However, avoid using a “slider” or “carousel image at the top of your home page. These are not only distracting, they diminish the site’s ability to guide users to the most popular areas. Instead of a slider, try using a static image or maybe multiple links to the top three pages on your website. For instance: “Rentals,” “Shop,” and Special Offers.
  • They lack Security. I know it’s 2019, and every website should be encrypted and protected. Right? Wrong. I still see many hardware retailers out there with sites without SSL’s. What is an SSL? Essentially it encrypts communication between a computer and a website. This is important for two reasons. First, it establishes trust with the consumer that your website is secure when they see “https://” in the browser’s address. Second, Google announced in September of 2016 that its Chrome browser would notify users when they visited sites that were not using an SSL, and subsequent posts hinted that Google would actually penalize sites in search results for not having an SSL installed. This means that if your competition is using an SSL and you aren’t, then their website will appear above yours on Google. That makes it much more likely that a potential customer will visit their site instead of yours.
  • Well, that’s done.” Dealers often view their website as they view a construction project. Once it is up and running, they forget about it and assume that people will just come streaming in. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am not advocating for hourly, daily, or weekly changes to the website. Instead, I recommend what I do with my clients. Once a month, stop and take a look at the analytics from the site and make adjustments. Analytics can be intimidating. They can require effort to gather actionable intelligence. But trust me, it is worth the effort. I recommend working with a marketing professional, or take an online course. Luckily, Google offers free online training that is quick and easy to learn. Start with Google Analytics for beginners.
  • They abandon their site or social — They started and never finished. This goes for both websites and social media accounts. You would never try to stock in your store every type of home improvement product ever made because you simply wouldn’t have the time, space, or monetary resources to make it possible. Often times I talk to my clients after they are already frustrated with trying to run a business, their website, and their five social media channels.

Let’s return to the example of my barbershop client. As a two-man operation, their most precious resource  is “time.” They were daunted by the prospect of managing a blog, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. That’s why we decided to focus on just Instagram and Facebook, because that is where the largest number of their clients already are. Also, now that the two platforms (Facebook owns Instagram) are linked, it is simple to cross-post to each quickly and effectively. Plus, we integrated their Instagram feed into the homepage of their website so that their site is being updated with new images from their Instagram feed. This strategy has been incredibly effective for them.

In conclusion, present your most important information in the header (Phone, Email, Hours, top products and services). Make sure your homepage is focused on promoting your top “deals” (no slider, please). Also, make sure your site is secure by using an SSL to show both your customers and Google that you are a trustworthy place to visit online and off. Never stop improving your website. Analytics, if used properly, are like a map leading you to more customers — but only if you look at them once in a while.

Lastly, complete what you start. The rewards are worth it.

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Brandon Wolf is the founder of Digital Wolf, a Fort Wayne, Ind.-based consulting practice with specialties in digital strategy and Internet sales. He is a former e-commerce manager for Do it Best Corp. He can be reached at [email protected], or the web site:



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