Let's face it, no one likes having to constantly update or tweak their website -- or having to totally redesign it every year. It can be time-consuming and expensive. But if online sales have been slipping, and even if they haven't (yet), it behooves businesses to periodically and objectively evaluate their Web or ecommerce sites -- and make the necessary fixes.
So what are some signs that your Web or ecommerce site needs a bit of tweaking (or a major overhaul)? Dozens of ecommerce, Web design and analytics experts identify nine giveaways that your Web or ecommerce site is in need of some help -- and how you can make the necessary fixes without spending a lot of time or money.
Problem No. 1: Your Traffic Isn't Converting Into Sales. If you are getting Web traffic, but it's not converting into sales, "I'd recommend starting with usability testing (via usertesting.com) and digging into Google Analytics stats to find exact problem areas and figure out [where in] the conversion funnel most visitors are dropping off," says Smriti Chawla, marketing specialist, Visual Website Optimizer, which provides A/B and split testing tools. "Once you know the problems, you can hypothesize design/content solutions to fix them and use A/B testing to validate your hypotheses."
Problem No. 2: High Bounce Rates. "If you experience consistently high bounce rates (especially on your homepage), it's likely time for a redesign," says Matt Winn, senior marketing communications manager at Volusion, a provider of ecommerce software and shopping cart solutions. "A high bounce rate indicates that prospective customers are either getting a negative first impression of your site or are unable to quickly find the product they're looking for," he explains. "A site or page redesign is a helpful way to address both branding and usability issues at the same time."
Short on money or time? "Save money on a redesign by focusing on the pages that matter most," says Sawyer Bateman, product designer for EasyPost, a simple shipping API. "Examine the pages, including the Home page, that drive sales. People rarely buy from the Contact Us or About pages. So focus your design efforts on the Home page and product listings."
Problem No. 3: Your Site Takes Forever to Load. "No customer wants to wait three minutes for a site to fully load," says Anna Swierenga, project manager, Design & Development, Perfect Search Media. "By that point, they will happily leave and [do] business [elsewhere]. Make sure your site can load in under seven seconds to keep the convenience factor key for your visitors," she advises. "Shrinking image files and optimizing content and browser caching can all help increase the speed of your site."
Problem No. 4: It's Difficult to Add Content or Update Your Site -- Without Having to Pay Someone a Lot of Money to Do it for You. If you cannot easily update your site, you may want to consider putting in a content management system. Just "pick a theme and try to keep complex functionality low," says Eugene Revzin, director, Design & Development, Perfect Search Media.
"Content management systems with easy-to-use interfaces allow the client to update their site on their own without having a lot of coding knowledge," Revzin says. "The right theme can be a great starting point regarding design and functionality. Keeping your site simple with only the necessary functionality will also save you a lot of money and will usually provide a better user experience."
Problem No. 5: Your Website Isn't Mobile Friendly. "Check your Google Analytics (or weblogs) and see how much of your traffic is coming from a phone or tablet," says Rick Wilson, president, Miva Merchant, an ecommerce solution provider. "If it's more than a few percent, you need to ensure your site is usable on both phones and tablets. Upgrading your site, either to a responsive or adaptive design, or with a mobile specific design, can generally be done affordably," and allows you to reach customers wherever, or however, they shop.
Problem No. 6: No Way to Opt In/Sign Up to Receive News or Promotions. "Do you have a way to capture every lead coming to your site? You should have an opt-in on the upper fold of your website in order to capture visitors' emails if they want to stay in touch with you," says Lizz M. Smoak, an online business coach.
"In today's noisy online world, visitors may have stumbled upon your website and [may] not be able to get there again on their own," Smoak says. "Allowing them a spot to enter their email, to receive some valuable content from you, helps lead them back to your site again," and it increases your chances of making a future sale.
Problem No. 7: Stale Content. "Your site might not be doing too well on products that you have carried for a long time and have not refreshed the content [i.e., product descriptions] for in a long time," says Smita Kumar, assistant manager, Ugam, an analytics provider. If that is the case, "you will need to refresh this content as Google ranks refreshed content [higher]." If you are not a writer, and don't want to pay a lot for a professional copywriter, "you can fix this quickly and without spending too much by rephrasing content and including relevant keywords that perform better on organic search results."
Problem No. 8: No Social Media Linkage. "The online world revolves around social media," says Smoak. So if you want people "talking about your brand and products, you need to include a 'Pin It' button [for Pinterest] on your photos and Facebook, Twitter and Instagram buttons to promote your content."
Problem No. 9: Your Buttons Look Dated. "Are your CTA (call to action) buttons looking dated, nonintuitive or simply not eye-catching?" asks Michael Epstein, an online marketing consultant. "Simply updating the various buttons on your site to a more modern style, high-impact color scheme or adding visual cues that help guide the user could make a big impact on the overall site look and performance," he says. "However, you should always track your site metrics after making any changes to your site to ensure they are having the intended effect."
One final tip for spotting potential and current problems -- and fixing them inexpensively. Make sure your Web or ecommerce site is up-to-date and doesn't have any glaring problems, such as broken links, every 12 months or so, "pull together a number of people who are unfamiliar with your website and products -- people with various levels of tech experience (people who are comfortable with purchasing online as well as those who are novices)," suggests LisaMarie Dias, the owner of LisaMarie Dias Designs, which provides social media and email marketing strategy and implementation.
Then "watch (either literally over their shoulder or via software) as they find and "purchase" products on your site. Create a list of items from different categories and have them click all the way through from the initial search to final delivery confirmation," she says. "It can be time-consuming and tedious, but you may be surprised at how many different routes people take and the dead ends they encounter. This valuable exercise can reveal [navigation and design] flaws as well as incorrect assumptions."
And if there are problems and you do need to make a site tweak, or four, don't panic.
"Web redesign doesn't have to be a time-consuming and expensive challenge," says Simon Slade, CEO and cofounder of SaleHoo , a platform for building your own online store and an online wholesale directory of over 8,000 prescreened suppliers. "For less than $500, you can make over your entire website using one of the following methods.
First, shop around at template marketplaces, such as Envato and Creative Market , which both offer stunning website designs for as little as $4. Or hire a freelance programmer/designer to overhaul your website for you. Elance and oDesk both can connect you with hundreds of qualified freelancers who will compete and bid to work on your website."