How To

This week’s website review is of Nicky is a coach for creative people, who works both one-to-one and on behalf of corporate clients. Nicky points out that her site is in need of an overhaul – it hasn’t really been touched in a while – and she is currently thinking through the relaunch. I chose Nicky’s site because it’s a bit of a blank canvas, and it shows a lot of issues that many coaches need to deal with.

In this review, we are going to talk about voice, credibility, content and how to make the best of video.

Let’s get started.

First impressions: Yep, it’s a little bit unloved.  The design is a bit scrappy. The layout is a little untidy and there are lots of minor errors scattered around the site which make things look a bit amateur. The Facebook widget is empty, and a lot of the links are not properly coded.


I’m actually curious as to why the site is relatively untouched and I will hazard a guess that Nicky has been busy somewhere else. The site goes through the motions of being a coaching website but I will put good money on Nicky’s current business being face-to-face. You can’t really buy off the page here (and that doesn’t necessarily matter).

Nicky’s About page is very interesting and I do not often say that. The About page is a living nightmare for most of us. It’s very clear that Nicky has all of the background and skills to serve her chosen audience of creatives very well.

Her testimonials are excellent, too, in the sense that these look like real people (real creative people) who have worked with Nicky and found the benefit.


Next, let’s explore the blog

For most coach websites, the blog content is very important. It’s where the coach’s point of view shines through, and where prospective clients are attracted.

Reading the posts, one major thing jumps out: Nicky has an absolute talent for video. She’s funny, she’s passionate and she is bursting to connect with her target audience. I also get the sense that Nicky isn’t yet sure about what she wants to say on this site: her online voice is still developing.

The importance of voice

I’m going to digress for a moment. There are shedloads – shedloads!! – of coaching sites out there. A lot of them are warm, well-meaning and incredibly vague. They even look alike. (They all used to look like Danielle Laporte’s old site).  It takes a lot to stand out from that crowd.

What marks out the good ones? Voice. It’s a point of view, a point of helping – that genuinely speaks to the target audience. It’s hard to pin down but people know when it’s there and when it’s missing. It’s here. It may be fledgling but it’s here.

The key to voice is knowing what your clients truly struggle with. Not the airbrushed, everything’s-fine line, but the deep struggles and doubts.  Nicky knows this world very well. In thinking about your future content, what do you your creative clients want? And in what format? (I think video could be perfect for them, but you may want to check).

Communicating credibility

As well as an authentic voice, a coaching site needs to offer credibility. This isn’t about the qualifications presented so much as the sense (through design, content, contact, offers, snippets etc etc etc) that this coach is a real person who will actually do what they say.

If you need a masterclass in credibility then check out Corrina Gordon-Barnes’ site, You Inspire Me.

I could write an entire post on what I think Corrina does well, but if I can sum it up: there is enough here for a prospective client to experience exactly what it’s like to work with Corrina, well before they pick up the phone or fill in a form.

And before you look at the mouthwatering design, and think, it’s all very well but I can’t afford a beautiful design:  the site was recently relaunched and although it looks beautiful now, it worked pretty well before.  Content is key.

Anyway, back to Nicky.

How should Nicky move forward?

Question #1: Is this business truly moving online or will it continue to operate mainly face-to-face?

The reason I’m asking is that the website solutions are somewhat different in these two cases. An in-person business can benefit from a great-looking site that is essentially static. The site provides a place to showcase talent, but it doesn’t have to attract clients into an online transaction.

An online coaching business operates rather differently, and it usually requires  a continuous drip of new content to speak to new readers and convert visitors into clients. A successful online coaching website is a carefully-crafted, well-oiled machine.

Question #2:  How much creative effort is Nicky willing to put in over time? The more static site involves a big setup, but then you’re (more or less) done. The river-of-content model requires setup and sustained content production. It might be once a fortnight not three times a week, but that still requires time.

I’m saying that because, really, Nicky’s videos are excellent. Nicky! Can you produce video regularly, without going mad? If you can, go for it. But do it wisely.

Tips for making the best of video

Video-heavy content is a slight risk. Video content is a lot slower to process than text, which means that people new to a site can be reluctant to click on it. It is usually a good idea to wrap your video in a blog post, even if it is a short teaser piece which simply highlights some of the things that the video will tackle.

Check out Blogcast FM, which is a podcast-based site. Each audio interview is introduced on the blog in a way that showcases the content being discussed and teases you into the content.


You can also use video as a jumping-off point for a text-based discussion, as business coach Marie Forleo does on her site. (And notice: The blog discussion is interesting, but you usually have to watch each video to get the full sense of Marie’s points, don’t you?)

If you’re uploading your videos to YouTube, then you need to take care of your YouTube channel. Once again, Marie Forleo’s YouTube channel is an elegant example of how to do it. You’ll see that her channel is beautifully branded to match her website and that each video links directly back to the discussion taking place on her site.

Marie Forleo on Youtube

The recipe, in a few words

  • Think about your audience and your future content
  • Where do you want your website sit within your business?
  • Plan and design all your content for that
  • Use video and writing to weave compelling content that your audience will love to read or watch
  • Plug any credibility gaps
  • Add a nice design that plays to your personality

Simple really…! Best of luck xxx

This is my third real-life website review for businesses rethinking their online presences.

You can read the others here:

What the silversmith isn’t telling you

The online stylist

Next up: The artist. Hopefully less of a monster post, but you never can tell. :-)

Like this? If you’d like to get these updates in your inbox, you can sign up here.


Website redesigns are expensive (for a reason, say the the designers at the back).

What do you do when you know that your site needs significant improvement, but right now you don’t have the budget for it?

Let’s start with triage. How bad are things, really?

Most website problems end up falling into three rough categories.

#1  The site is essentially fine but it looks dated

If this is your situation: brilliant.

Yes, good visual design is important but it only enhances what is already there. If your core approach is working, you are already well ahead of the game. Save up, look at the suggestions below, but you’re good.

#2 Things are genuinely broken

In this situation, the best thing you can do now is find a good design studio.

I have come across this most commonly when doing small business web reviews, where the business owner has ended up with a site which is really not fit for its purpose.  I can usually spot these in a few, heartsinking moments. This tends to happen when the site owner is very new to web design and they don’t quite understand how it all works.

If you think you’re in this situation: get honest feedback and decide whether you can soldier on or whether an informed redesign will get you back on track quickly.

#3 It’s OK, but it could be much better.

This is typical. You suspect there are some major issues and you would love to have a designer solve it for you – you just know it’s going to cost and that’s not a cost you can justify right now.

The seven suggestions below should help you focus your energies on the critical parts.

Start by fixing any weak transactions

By ‘transactions’ I mean all those places where your site visitor is actively trying to do something more complex than simply browsing: choosing and buying stuff, registering for your site, downloading resources, booking an appointment.

These are likely to be key to the success of your site.

So start by looking at them through the eyes of your users. Ask some real users if at all possible. Get honest feedback from people who don’t work for you or live with you. Processes may be standardised (for example, setting up a user acount), but there is usually scope to change wordings and improve the customer experience substantially.

Look at your language used in transactions: is it smooth and easy? Do users feel welcomed in? What happens when someone enters the wrong information? Are they gently nudged towards the right action, or nagged in red capitals?

Remind yourself what success should look like

Next, list out the goals you have for your site. Put them into some sort of order of priority – perhaps the primary, secondary and nice to have.

How well is your site performing right now on each of these? Quick marks out of 10.

Can you take action on these, in the absence of a redesign?

Is there one particular section of your site that’s underperforming? Tackle that.

Is it a general issue, like plenty of visitors but lots of them bounce away quickly? You need to find out why.

Do your research

Now look at your site analytics to see what is working and what isn’t.

Talk to your customers about your site, what they love and hate.

If at all possible talk to actual customers/external visitors, not internal people. Internal people will quite often hate the site because it reminds them of the big fight that IT is having with Sales, or whatever. Staff even more so. All staff hate the company website. Well, mostly.

Put a survey together on Surveymonkey, and add the link on your site. Ask your email subscribers, if you have them. Add a question about your site when you talk to your customers, at the end of a meeting. (If they never visit that’s also a data point…)

Review your site

It’s time to take a cold hard look at your site. Ideally get several people to go through this process so that you can pool your thinking and balance each other out.

Check out:

  • Transactions, downloads, signups, search, forms (if you haven’t already)
  • The quality of product images and product information – in product based business, poor photography and weak descriptions will stop your site visitors in their tracks.
  • Is it easy for people to find what they are looking for?
  • Is it accessible to your audience? Can they view your videos on Internet Explorer? Can they read your site on their mobiles? Is your text easy to read?
  • How does it look and feel? Does that match your desired brand image?
  • What about the written content? Are your words working for you?

Look at your competition

Not in a teeth-gnashing sort of way but just logging what they do and what you like about it. You can go the whole hog and benchmark, if you like, checking out a shortlist of competitors against your own critical factors. If you find that Website X has product photos to die for, that might shape your thinking.

Improve your SEO

Are people finding you through search? What terms are they using and are you optimised for these? Is your content generally findable? Do you use all the absolute basics of good SEO, like using meaningful names for pages and search-friendly titles for news items and blog posts?

Work your content better

Take a look at all your content: could be news, stories, blog posts, video, press releases. How can you make it better?

Is it easy to read? Long screeds of text are hard work.

Is it interesting to your audience, not landfill? Does it address their interests and needs?

Is the language right? Websites are generally written in a more informal, personal style, but some organisations find it hard to adjust to that.

Are you making the best use of the content that is not on the home page? Can you feature it, link it, edit to make it easier to find?

Now you’re ready to do some brainstorming.

  • Where are you going with all this?
  • What needs to be fixed right now?
  • What can wait?
  • What needs some further thinking?

At the end of this process you will be far more informed about your site and exactly how it’s performing. That will enable you to have a better conversation with designers/developers, when the budget is available; which makes it more likely that your redesign gives you a site that genuinely takes your web presence to the next level. You don’t want to waste your budget on a cosmetic change that will need to be updated very quickly.

Finally, don’t beat yourself up. Web design is often a compromise, and the web vision inevitably evolves over time.  It is easy to grow out of something that seemed perfect 18 months ago.

What have I left out? Tell me below. And if you found this helpful you can also check out my Website to Wonderful series, for more ideas on how to make things better.








Website to Wonderful, 5: Are you losing your customer at the checkout?

December 5, 2011 How To

My son’s worst shopping moment with me took place last Christmas. We were out shopping in the January sales, and I went into WH Smith (a newsagent) to buy a few things. They had some brand new self-service checkouts. I ignored them (hate them with a passion) and queued up to pay a real live […]

0 comments Read the full article →

Website to Wonderful, 4: Creating easy paths for prospects

November 22, 2011 How To

Fasten up, this is a long post on the subject of emotional landscaping. First: how exactly do you turn a prospective customer into a paying one? And down below, my take on how it works for all you good people selling coaching and counselling as opposed to widgets. You can find previous posts in the […]

3 comments Read the full article →

Website to Wonderful, 3: Designing your site with real users in mind

November 9, 2011 How To

Yes, it’s time to talk about what user experience types grandly refer to as ‘user journeys’. The word ‘journey’ does sound somewhat major, but don’t get caught out: some of those journeys are the pixellated exquivalent of popping to the corner shop for a pint of milk, rather than crossing the Andes by hovercraft. As […]

6 comments Read the full article →

Website to Wonderful 2: Usability, or How not to make your visitors’ eyeballs bleed

November 7, 2011 How To

If you read Part 1 of the series, then you now should have a neat set of goals and wishes to think about. But before we go any further, let’s take a look at your site and see if there are any things which are actively preventing your site visitors from taking a promising relationship […]

7 comments Read the full article →

Website to Wonderful: Makeover Edition

November 4, 2011 How To

  Website to Wonderful. A website makeover guide for the rest of us. This is going to be a series of blog posts intended to help you make over your website presence. Who is it for? Well, it’s for you if you have a business or other organisational site which you think needs a little […]

4 comments Read the full article →

How to attract, engage and keep your online students

October 5, 2011 How To

Maximising motivation in digital workshops and online courses Online courses are being offered more and more, both as an alternative way of taking part in a traditional class, and as a way of providing totally new types of course. If you are designing an online workshop, you will usually want to create something that provides […]

0 comments Read the full article →

How to create rich product information, in five simple steps

June 7, 2011 How To

  I’ve been trawling Etsy, the handmade craft website, in search of nice stuff for a friend’s new baby, and I noticed a real variation between the mini-boutiques. Some I’d be happy to buy from straight away, no question.  Others are sending lots of worrying little signals that the product or the service simply aren’t […]

4 comments Read the full article →

Valentine selection: five from the archives

February 14, 2011 How To

I’m cheating today.  On the assumption that you’ll be swamped by Valentine-themed content of all types, I am going to dig through my archives and blow the dust off some older posts that deserve more love.   Hopefully something for everyone. Fair warning: some of these are from 2007, which is like 1850 in internet terms. […]

0 comments Read the full article →