With very, very few exceptions, your entire audience is online right now. So the very first question around supporting business right now has to be : do you already have an online presence? I’m hoping the answer is yes and that most of you are already in this position. (This post is being written specifically for business that already have an online presence but if you don’t happen to have a website yet, I will be following up with a second post full of recommendations for that scenario as well.)
So you do have a website. The first thing we are going to do a very quick health check on your website. It is critical that your site is showing up in searches, reaching the largest audience possible, performing well, and meeting your client’s needs. These are very simple checks so let’s run through them quickly.
HOW TO TELL IF YOUR WEBSITE HAS AN SSL CERTIFICATE
If you already know what an SSL Certificate is and know that your site has one, go ahead and skip to the next header. For the people still here, having an SSL Certificate is absolutely critical to your website because without one, Google basically ignores your site and you won’t be showing up in organic searches. Without an SSL Certificate you’re likely only getting traffic from direct links and we can all agree that we all need a broader audience than that. Luckily it’s easy to find out if you have one or not. (Quite a few website builders include them by default these days. For example, a Shopify websites are automatically setup with an SSL Certificates.)
To check for an SSL Certificate : Type your website into a browser and check to see that the lock symbol shows up to the left of your domain.
If you see a small i in a circle instead of a lock, you might have one but your site might have some link or image issues keeping your site from being secure. That is usually a relatively easy fix.
If you don’t currently have an SSL Certificate, contact Ess Effect Design for advice on how to get that up and running quickly.
IS YOUR WEBSITE SETUP WITH GOOGLE ANALYTICS AND GOOGLE SEARCH CONSOLE?
This one is important because this provides real insight into how your site is (or isn’t) performing—which in turn gives you an educated opportunity to make meaningful adjustments.
Do you have Google Analytics and Search Console setup already? If you’re not sure, you can do a quick check for Google Analytics as well. Go to your webpage and do a right click anywhere on the page. A pop-up menu will appear. From that option choose ‘View Page Source’.
It will take you to a page full of pure code, but don’t panic. Just do ⌘F and then put the text ‘UA-‘ in the search box. If there’s a match in the code that has a long number after the UA- (for example ‘UA-1332918380’ then you do have Google Analytics on your website.
As with the SSL Certificate, hopefully you’ve already got Google Analytics. If you do, hop in and take a look at your traffic, paying particular attention to how much you’re getting from direct, social, and organic search clicks.
If you don’t have Google Analytics and need help setting it up, or, if you do and you’d like a free consultation on actionable takeaways from your current analytics, contact Ess Effect Design. These analytics are so powerful in informing business decisions and showing you where you could make improvements.
Google Search Console is a different login but also highly recommended as it gives you more detailed insight into the keywords people are using to come to your site. It’s very simple to setup but does require access to your domain’s DNS records.
HOW ARE YOUR PAGE LOAD SPEEDS?
There is a LOT that goes into good SEO but one check that you can do yourself if you don’t know how your SEO is (or if you’ve never set it up) is to go to the site gtmetrix.com and analyze the performance of your website. This will give you an idea of if slow page loads are hurting your Google ranking.
There’s so much more to write about how businesses can handle the coronavirus crisis and this post is intended to help you establish a basic set of foundational items to build on. Up next will be a post on how to leverage what you’ve learned from this post as well as one for where / how to start if you don’t currently have an online presence.
When it comes to business, we often hear the advice: Find a way to cut through the noise. The mistake that businesses often make in this quest is that their main goal becomes to craft a message that stands out. But an interesting voice in the crowd is still just another voice. And that doesn’t cut through the noise; it makes things louder.
The main reason that approach goes awry so quickly is because humans are subject to a notion called channel capacity. Channel capacity is not often considered or protected, which is why so many current approaches quickly overload this capacity instead of working with it. At its most basic level, channel capacity is the idea that humans can hold about seven items (plus or minus two) in working memory at any given time. We probably all learned about this limit at some point in our childhood (not necessarily under that name), but rarely consider its implications in our adult lives. Given that we live in the age of overwhelm, channel capacity doesn’t stand a chance. Our customers, clients, and users are drowning in information and messages. Most people are maxed out most of the time. The quantity of messages we are barraged with is crushing, and that’s before we factor in the amount of basic day-to-day items that we keep track of and juggle in our jobs and personal lives.
Our goal as designers and businesses should be to ease the load. It’s in our best interests and it’s in our customers’ best interests. The quickest way for a user or potential client to tune our your message is for them to be bombarded with an overload of information when they get to your website or application. Sites that get excited about blasting all the options / information immediately make it obvious that they are going to add an additional tax on the user’s channel capacity. This is the number one sin I see regarding businesses’ online presence. Unless the user has a high degree of motivation, e.g. no other options or an external requirement, obvious information overload is usually a good reason to bail.
People get excited. It’s normal. Your business is awesome. It provides a fantastic service. You want to tell people about it AND you want to tell people about every nuance that makes it better than the competition. You want to make sure they don’t miss a single aspect of what makes it special. In those moments, remember this basic principle: In general, the more you say, the less people listen. The concept of information architecture is nothing new, but this is a new way to think about the reason it’s so critically important and then to create content / design accordingly.
A fantastic example of channel capacity honored is Google. Google is the most powerful search engine on the web and think about what it shows when you get to their homepage: A simple search bar. One thing. No content. No clutter. No clamoring messages.
While you may not be showcasing a search engine as the main component of your online presence, think of your site the same way. What’s the ONE thing that users have come to your site for? Be incredibly cognizant of that one user goal and you’ll be well on your way to treating channel capacity with respect, which translates directly into treating your users (and their time, and their available brain space) with respect. And that will be the beginning of creating the relationship you want with them.
The concept of channel capacity doesn’t mean you have to leave out important content. You can provide a lot of information without overloading users if it’s presented as a trail. A trail gives people one path and one direction until they reach a decision point, after which, they are still following one piece of information. When I design sites, I keep the mantra ‘A website should be a guided trail, not a maze’ at the forefront of my mind. I’ve seen far too many websites in the wild that are mazes, or worse, guess-and-check systems of information finding.
Craft your online presence to be a champion and protector of channel capacity. Hone one main message. Make it the one your users care the most about. Respect their working memory and their current state of overwhelm. If you design to work with channel capacity and not against it you’ll do more than stand out from the crowd; you’ll feel like an oasis.
(And we all love vacation.)
Additional recommended reading
Don’t Make Me Think
Organize Tomorrow Today
Overwhelmed: How to Work, Love, and Play When No One Has The Time
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WEBSITE DESIGN AND SEO
Please enjoy looking through some recent web design projects. If you're looking to get a new website up and running for your small business, Ess Effect Design offers some of the most comprehensive yet affordable options. If you're in need of a website refresh, we are also available and ready to help. No matter how your site was originally built, we have the technical know-how to make changes from simple content updates to full redesigns to search engine optimization.