Over the next few days, I’m featuring five brave small business owners who volunteered their sites for a website review. Their businesses are pretty diverse yet many of the issues with their websites are actually quite similar. In my comments, I try to put myself in the mindset of the first-time visitor to the site, who will decide what do in the space of a few seconds. As always, every website is a work in progress – no site is perfect.
First up is Susie (Jones?), whose site has the intriguing title Have you Met Miss Jones?
We’ll start at the Home page.
First impressions: this is a simple, elegant-looking design in black-and-white, with subtle pops of blue. Wait, is this really the home page? It feels like a page of detail. The font is quite small and there’s a lot to read here before understanding what Susie is offering. It’s all a little bit mysterious, and I’m not sure that readers will actually have the patience to investigate further.
A couple of other things to note: there are lots of social sharing buttons at the bottom, which don’t really make sense for this page; there is a form for signing up to something, but it’s not clear what; and the website title, right at the top of the screen (not shown on the screenshot) gives very little away. Your title is very important for SEO, and in the case of a location-bounded business like Susie’s, it should indicate much more about her services and her location.
The About page
So now I’m going to the About page, because I haven’t really met you yet. A good About page will explain the heart of your business and introduce your people. It will often say something about your customer, too. Susie’s About page is quite guarded. There is a weeny picture (what are you wearing??) and a bit of background. There’s also a section on what it’s like to work with you, in which you say…it’s very time efficient. Services page: same again. No prices.
Hmm. I don’t know. It doesn’t feel very motivating, and I’m wondering what really brings your customers to you.
Are they just busy, so that this is like the fashion equivalent of online grocery delivery? Or is there a deeper need here, that you’re not spelling out? Maybe they have to look presentable but they hate shopping because it’s a nightmare finding a jacket that fits properly, and they’ve put on 2 stone in the last year eating junk food between meetings? Maybe they’ve had a baby recently and so they haven’t read a fashion magazine in 2 years and have no clue what the hell to buy.
I say all this because I think it’s an interesting service but my own feeling is that someone who will buy you online has to be very, very sure they want to work with you before they get in contact. You have to prove right here on the page that you can do this and do it in the right way.
Let’s go over to the blog.
Here I find myself letting out a breath that I didn’t know I was holding, because this is lovely! There isn’t much content, but what’s there is great. The post on how to dress for a christening has some beautiful looks and is written in a warm and sympathetic style. Now I’m persuaded!
General thoughts for Susie:
For me, the big question is how much you want to write for this site.
There are two main ways to go.
One is to create a site which acts as a online brochure for your services, where the blog is incidental. If this is how you’ll work, put all your effort into making a stylish and approachable site that showcases your approach right from the Home page. But you (and your style) have to show up in a much more positive, arresting way right on the page, and you have to figure out exactly what your customer needs from you before they can buy with confidence.
(For an example of how this can work, take a look at another London-based stylist, Caboodle Style, who absolutely nails this. Her blog is only occasionally updated, but she knows her customer inside out, and she provides them with everything they will need in order to buy from her. That is one carefully designed website, let me tell you).
The other approach is to be blog-led.
This can work if you love to write regularly, and you have the design & photography skills to make it all look great. A blog-led site has the blog double as the home page. People fall in love with you and your voice and start investigating your offer. Stylists like Grasie Mercedes and photographers like Susannah Conway use this approach. Here’s Grasie’s style-heavy approach.
My final tip: Talk to your customers about why they really use your shopping service. How did they feel before? How was the experience and how did they feel afterwards? Is it truly about the time? Is it about style, or insecurity, or lifestyle upheaval, or the access to you and your personality? If you can truly understand that, I think you’ll be able to create a service and content that connects easily with customers, whichever way you go.
If you’ve enjoyed this, do share it. You can also sign up for updates delivered right to your email. And – I forgot to mention, how much do I need someone to review my site – if you’d love your own strategic site review, away from the public gaze, then you can book a session with me. I’ll add a Shop page later this week with the full details and prices but in the meantime you can email me.
Thank you so much Susie for volunteering and best of luck!
Next up: a rather lovely jewellery site.