Professional websites are the new résumés.
This is a good thing. Your information can be accessed more easily and frequently, it can be optimized to show up in search engines, you have more room to share your experience in a creative way, and most of all, you can quickly build your web presence, which is ultimately a synonym for your professional reputation.
The challenge is that not everyone has experience with HTML, coding, copywriting or marketing design. You may be a highly qualified expert in your field, but without correct online representation, your work could easily get lost among the noise. Hiring a professional to build your website and “brand” material (even if you are an individual) is always the best course of action. If that isn’t a possibility for you, there are many pre-designed templates from hosting websites that can set you up pretty well.
Regardless of how it’s built, if your site isn’t quite where you want it to be, or isn’t generating as much traffic or client retention as you’d like, first make sure you aren’t committing the following cardinal sins. They’re all extremely common, but luckily, not that difficult to fix.
1. You designed the pages for desktop, not mobile.
In 2018, people access the Internet through their phones just as much as they use computers (some polls show it’s nearly a 50/50 split). This means that your site needs to have a mobile-friendly version, wherein your pages are specifically designed to fit within a smaller and different sized screen.
This doesn’t mean a desktop-friendly version isn’t important. Consider your audience: many professionals will access your site via their computers at work, while clientele will more likely find your info through a social media bio, or in searching for something they need. Make sure your bases are covered and your site is user-friendly on multiple devices.
2. You talk more about yourself than what you can do for others.
When someone reaches your homepage, the first thing they should see is exactly what you can do for them. In marketing, this is called spotlighting, and it’s the idea that you should design your user experience from the perspective of a stranger or potential client. Instead of focusing on who you are and what you’ve done, put yourself in their shoes and focus first on what you’re going to do, fix or improve about their businesses and lives.
3. You don’t have a clear, concise opening statement about who you are.
The next thing you have to do is explain who you are and why a client should choose to trust you. A common mistake that people open their “about” pages with their passions, ideas, and hopes… which sounds nice, but doesn’t actually offer the anything of great value. Instead, your bio should open with a sentence or two that sums up exactly who you are, what you do, and who you do it for.
Here’s an example:
My name is Amanda, and I am a graphic designer and marketing expert specializing in developing web presence for small businesses and creative professionals.
4. You aren’t showing your work.
Saying you are an accomplished professional doesn’t matter unless you are showing why you’re an accomplished professional. After you’ve communicated what it is you do, you need to show your work.
If you are a designer, make sure your website reflects your best work. If you are a writer, post articles, books and reviews. If you are a consultant, post testimonials and links to finished projects. In theory, you shouldn’t have to tell someone, I am a good designer. They should be able to infer that from what they see.
5. You’re not using stats or figures.
The next most important part of “showing your work” is incorporating numbers. If you lead a team, how many people were you responsible for? If you managed a budget, what was it? If you improved sales, what was your margin? If you’ve written articles, how many? If you’ve been published, where?
Here’s a weak example of work experience:
I was responsible for managing and organizing my own team, brainstorming marketing ideas, building revenue streams, and completing various other tasks.
This is stronger:
I managed a team of 10 professionals, brainstormed dozens of marketing concepts on a bi-weekly basis, built two unique revenue streams by $40,000 and increased profitability by 9%.
If you’re just getting started and don’t feel that you have any numbers worth mentioning, get creative. Perhaps you are a writer who has only been published in one place. Instead of saying: I only have once piece published, say: My work has been featured on a website with an audience of 9 million/month.
6. The fonts are dated, or hard to read.
Avoid using fonts like Comic Sans, Papyrus, or anything else that looks outdated. Most of all, keep your fonts consistent, and use a combination of both serif and sans-serif styles. For example, each of the titles on your pages should be in the same font, and the body text should be the same as well.
7. Your content is ephemeral.
If you don’t want to have to update your blog every month for it to stay relevant, rethink your content. Ideally, you shouldn’t be able to open your site and immediately realize it was created 5 years ago, and hasn’t been touched since. You want to build your website with evergreen content, which aren’t trendy or time-sensitive.
Building out your site to have this type of content is also a great way to build SEO. Use key words that people tend to look up. For example, instead of saying: This is the official website of designer Amanda Lee, say: Amanda Lee, Chicago-based graphic designer for small businesses.
8. You don’t have a sign up list.
Building an email list is an amazing marketing tool, because it gives you direct access to people who are already interested in you and your work. It’s also a great way to build potential clientele. Make sure you have a sign up option somewhere on your site, so people who are interested in hearing more about your work can do so.
9. Your contact page isn’t easily accessible.
It shouldn’t take more than a few seconds to figure out how to reach out to you. You want to make it easy for people to get in touch. If you don’t want to make your email address public (few people would) insert a form on a separate page that’s clearly labelled.
10. Your contact page is connected to unmonitored inbox.
Once your contact page is set up and streamlined, make sure that the messages are being forwarded directly to your main inbox, which you check daily. Being responsive is essential to developing relationships, and staying on top of opportunities and requests as they come in.
11. Your photos are low-res, and don’t show your face.
People want to connect a face to your work, so make sure you have that available. Hire someone to do a 30 minute head shot session (you or someone you know will likely know multiple photographers who would be happy to do this). Not only will it give you a cleaner, more professional appearance, but also literally get your face out there for the world to see.
Don’t use images that aren’t directly related to what you’re doing. You don’t need to insert 10 stock photos of people in meetings or holding cups of coffee. You want it to look personalized and unique, and a big part of that is making sure that your images are chosen strategically.
12. Your information isn’t organized.
Your homepage shouldn’t be your blog, contact page, portfolio and video journal. To make everything look clean and streamlined, separate different information onto different pages, and make it easy to read and access. Make sure that you don’t use mismatching templates when you do this. Having consistency between pages is essential for looking put together.
13. You aren’t offering any value.
For your website to be really effective, it needs to offer something to those visiting it. Maybe that’s content to read, a free download in exchange for an email sign up, information about the industry that isn’t commonly known, or answers to frequently asked questions.
You want to make your site somewhere people go to do, see, learn or try something. When you offer something of value, you engage them at some level, and make them want to hire or contact you for more.