A Reflection of You

You can create better trustworthiness in your website design by keeping in mind that it is an extension of yourself, your business, and your character.

I recently visited a website as part of doing research for a customer. I had never been to this particular site (which will remain nameless) before and wanted the answer to a specific question. Immediately I encountered a pop-up asking me to subscribe, follow and join their site. I did not even have enough time to really understand what their company was about, much less whether I wanted to join them. This kind of shotgun approach turned me off wanting to do anything other than to find a less needy company.

They say you never have a second chance to make a first impression. This clever aphorism might make you chuckle, but the truth of the matter is that in a crowded Internet with thousands of similar sites, your first impression is everything. Why? Because it defines you in a way you may not even be aware of. Here are some things to look at when creating that first page that people will see as you for the first time:

  1. How are you dressed?
    In other words, is the presentation professional? Hopefully you wouldn’t wear loafers to a serious business meeting. Nor should you clutter up your home page with advertisements for meaningless click-bait. Show your good side: attractive photos, recommendations, and, above all, relevant content.
  2. Did you arrive on time?A slow website will likely deter potential customers. Some may blame their own Internet connection the first time, but consistent failure to deliver will diminish your business. Monitoring services are available to keep tabs on your website delivery speeds in case the hosting becomes unreliable, even for a short period of time.
  3. Are you prepared?
    The customer may need a while to sort out whether they are interested in your services. Have you taken the time to answer potential questions that you know come up in your everyday business away from the Internet? Being prepared also includes being direct about how to order what the client might want. If the purpose of the site is to sell a book, the button to buy that book needs to be on the first page in some way.
  4. What is your reputation?
    This aspect of website trust is available through third parties as well as your own proudly displayed testimonials. The Better Business Bureau for example, has a widget that will grade your business and engender a certain level of trust. Displaying your SSL certificate or “hacker-free” testing medallion can also help if you are an e-commerce site.
  5. Can we talk?
    Making the phone number visible, tap-able, clickable, etc., can be enough to create some trust as many sites are unreachable in any way other than e-mail. Having a live person on the other end rather than an answering machine is even better. If you are unable to take your calls as they come in, make sure to check your messages as frequently as possible, and give your potential customers an idea of how long it will take you to get back to them.

You can create better trustworthiness in your website design by keeping in mind that it is an extension of yourself, your business, and your character. Making a good impression is just as important as having a good product. Indeed, when you are shopping for a good website designer, be sure to ask the hard questions up front and know whether they are willing to make your website trustworthy as well as snazzy-looking.

Henry Lyons is the owner of Finestkind Web Design in Dresden, Maine. He can be reached at finestkindwd@gmail.com, or through his website www.fineskindwebdesign.com.

The Forgotten Art of Listening

An author from the Maine Midcoast area sat down with me for the first time to discuss her website. She was punctual to our meeting at the local café in Bath and I had found a table in an empty room where we could talk undisturbed. I listened to her thoughts on what the website would look like, what it might do, and heard her interest pique about what other things might be possible. I wanted to know more.

“How many books have you written?” I asked a few questions about her and her work, the kinds of things she respects, her interests, and her direction for the future. This is usually called an “intake interview” in the business world. People share their ideas, and then the interviewer takes over the conversation and sets appropriate expectations about what can and cannot be done. Truly listening, is more complicated than filling out a form. It involves flexibility during the conversation so that even if you want to talk about the benefits of something like social media, it only comes after in-depth knowledge of the business and the client.

Tips for listening well

Let people talk. One of the biggest rookie mistakes that a website professional can make is to move too quickly to the next question, as though the meeting format was “just a formality.”

Take notes. The meeting can be a goldmine of opportunity or a tragic series of missed cues depending on how well the ideas are preserved. Not all aspects of content for the website will be apparent in the beginning, so taking thorough notes can save a lot of time later in the creative process.

Do not steer the conversation unless absolutely necessary. The best information comes after the person has recited the list of things on their mind that they know they need to say to you. When that burden has lifted, underlying thoughts about the subject float to the surface and more casual conversation can bring forth a clearer and more heartfelt vision of what the client really wants.

Let go of your expectations. If you are waiting for the magic moment when the client is going to say something you want them to say to “seal the deal” or reaffirm your expertise, this comes across as unexplained uneasiness and the client will see that you are waiting for something to happen. This can completely destroy an otherwise helpful meeting because the client does not know what you are waiting for and makes up all kinds of thing in his or her mind to try to explain it, including “am I taking up too much of their time.” This leads directly to the next tip.

Allow enough time to listen. A new client meeting especially should not happen in a short time slot. I am a firm believer in the concept that in order for something to come into your life, you need to make space for it. The same is true for a new client. Make space, try not to box yourself into a restricted schedule that will make both of you uncomfortable.

And finally, respect opinions. This is harder than it sounds because we all have differences of opinions. The adage that the client is always right is a good place to start, but may not handle all situations. Discover the soft opinions and the firm opinions about what the client wants. This can be anything from the colors used on the site, to responsive design options, to social media integration. There are many ways to do this effectively while respecting the client’s comfort zone. I have some clients who prefer to simplify things by leaving out aspects of social media entirely. Other businesses choose to have streaming content hosted by a different company, even though I offer complete hosting solutions. Making sure the client’s needs are respected is a primary element of good listening.

At the end of the meeting my new author client was already feeling like a new good friend. She was pleased I had taken the time to get to know her business and something about her life in order to better represent the style, message, and tone she expected in a website. Since the time we completed her site she still has great ideas for new content and media to add, which we are working on at her pace and within what she decided on for a budget.

Henry Lyons is the owner of Finestkind Web Design in Dresden, Maine. He can be reached at finestkindwd@gmail.com, or through his website www.fineskindwebdesign.com.