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The two most dangerous words in website design

As a rule, our blogs are practical in nature. We rarely get on our soapbox and never (well, almost never) rant. Today, I might make an exception.

We spend much of our time talking to advisers, planners and providers about websites and have concluded that the two most dangerous words are:

“I like.”

Closely followed by: “I don’t like.”

Why are these seemingly innocuous words so dangerous?

Simple. Your website shouldn’t be developed based on what you like and don’t like, but on what’s effective; is it accomplishing your aims? Is it delivering what you need it to? Is the return on investment right?

Indeed, focusing on what you like, rather than what’s effective, could reduce the likelihood of your site achieving its aims. For most of advisers and planners we can split those objectives into two:

New client generation

In terms of new client generation, your website probably has three key jobs to do:

  1. Turning a suspect into a prospect, with the visitor taking a call to action by calling, emailing or submitting a contact form. To do this, your website needs to demonstrate that you are the expert, able to solve their current financial problem or challenge while addressing any anxiety or nervousness they might have.

  2. Gently explaining who you work best with, or who you can’t / don’t advise and signposting them elsewhere

  3. Starting to pre-sell what it is you do and why the visitor should work with you

Existing client communication

For existing clients, your website might simply be a way of logging onto an online portal, or a handy reminder of your contact details. An effective website is also vital in the quest for more referrals and recommendations; a touch point existing clients can use to refer you on to friends, family and work colleagues.

It should also be your online mouthpiece, where you publish useful, informative and relevant content about your business (try it, they are interested) and things affecting their personal finances. Remember, your clients will get their personal finance information somewhere; it should be from you. To put it another way, would you rather they read:

  1. “FTSE 100 crashes as global markets plunge on inflation fears” (Daily Mail, 6th February 2018), or

  2. “FTSE 100 loses £77BILLION in two days as global markets bloodbath strikes” (Daily Express, 6th February 2018), or

  3. Your calm, sensible and considered approach, reminding them about the fundamentals of investing?

Of course, publishing content helps to achieve your aims in respect of new clients; it demonstrates expertise, whilst improving your site’s search engine ranking.

Measuring effectiveness

The effectiveness of your website can be measured in several different ways; the daddy of them all, of course, is the number of new enquiries generated. That’s why keeping a record, showing key information about the enquiries you receive, is so important.

Other measures focus on visitor engagement and include:

  1. Bounce rate

  2. Time on page

  3. Pages viewed per visit

“I like / I don’t like”

So back to the original point.

There are two problems with those phrases:

Problem #1: Working in the dark

Unless you have seen evidence to show how a website is performing, you’ve only got half the story. Only when you couple the website’s Analytics and enquiry record with the site itself can you truly know what’s working and what’s not. If you’re just looking at the site on its own, you’re working in the dark.

I’ve seen websites get the thumbs up from other advisers and planners but, when the analytics and overall performance are analysed, are proven to be ineffective.

Problem #2: It isn’t about you

Of course, in an ideal world you will like your website AND it will be effective. But your personal taste should always be of secondary to its effectiveness.

That’s why the “like” word is so dangerous; it’s focusing on your personal preference. Not that of your target market.

We must look at websites, indeed all marketing, through the eyes the intended audience. Often, advisers and planners aren’t in their target market. For example, we often see 30-40-year-old advisers helping people a generation older plan their retirement. The age gap is probably sufficient to use websites differently; that’s why you need make decisions about your website design with your target audience in mind, not your own preferences.

That means you need to know your target clients intimately, creating individual client personas for each type of person (or business) you want to work with. But that’s a blog for another day.

So, what’s a better question?

If “I like” or “I don’t like” are dangerous, what’s the better question?

Could we suggest: “What’s effective?” or “What will work?”.

Of course, without insights into the aims, objectives and analytics of the website, it isn’t easy to answer. But it’s a damn site better than “I like.”

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