Creating your own online presence — DIY’ing as I call it — can be a daunting task. For small and single-person businesses, however, keeping things like website design and development in-house isn’t a choice…it’s a necessity. And, for most DIYers, there comes a time when you look at your self-created website and know that it needs a little jolt, but aren’t quite sure where to begin. That’s why I’m here today to share 3 small ways you can make a big impact on your website.
#1 Rewrite your site’s copy. All of it.
They say an apple a day keeps the doctor away. Well, I say a page a day brings the customers to play. The thought of rewriting your entire site may seem daunting, but what if you decided to rewrite one page — or even just one section of one page — every single day? At the end of a few weeks your site’s copy and message will be spruced up to reflect all that you’ve learned and read about copywriting since first launching your business.
Pump up your body…body copy that is.
Before you get started rewriting your copy, I suggest forming one key brand message that you want your site, in general, to convey. Additionally, identify one weakness and one strength of your current copy for each page. Once you rewrite the copy for a page, go back and review — did you pump up what already rocked about the page (the strength) and fix what wasn’t so hot (the weakness)? Does that specific page’s copy work toward your big brand mission? Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite until you get it perfect.
Give your headlines the VIP treatment.
I suggest spending a few days strictly on writing great headlines. After all, it’s the headlines and subheadlines on your page that will attract the most attention from your readers. These copy heroes need to be given the VIP treatment. Write multiple versions of each headline, edit ruthlessly and pick the ones that pack the most punch. Bonus: unused headlines have potential to serve as blog post titles in the future!
Share it with your team.
It might make you nervous to share your copy with friends and family, but I’m a big fan of having a stellar site review team on hand just for moments like these. Once you’ve rewritten your copy, share it with your site review team and ask for specific types of feedback. Share your thoughts on what the shortcomings of your old site copy were and what your goals are version 2.0. Being open and honest will help you get more strategic feedback from your team.
#2 Refresh your fonts.
Most DIYers that I know and have worked with typically approach their website and overall branding with a dangerous “more is better” approach in an attempt compensate for their lack of web and graphic design experience. I see this most often with font selection — it’s not unusual to see 5-7 different fonts on a single site or branding piece. Wowza! In reality, using fewer fonts that really speak to your brand is what’s best, particularly if you don’t know much about type or design.
Ditch the third (or fourth or fifth) font wheel.
The good news? Changing your web fonts up is a fairly painless process. I suggest that you visit Google Fonts and select one serif and one sans-serif font to use on your site. Yes, trim your brand down to just two fonts. Pick fonts that are easy to read, render nicely on screen at various sizes and will age well with your business — that means avoiding trendy, scripty or cartoony fonts. You will thank yourself later. The bonus of using Google Fonts is that most of the fonts are available to download for free so you can apply this streamlined branding to your print pieces, too!
Switch your CSS style up!
Google makes it very easy to integrate new fonts onto your site with just basic CSS knowledge. There are lots of video tutorials on YouTube that can walk you through quickly changing your headline and body fonts. All of the major browsers also have tools for testing out CSS on a live site without actually changing it; Firebug for Firefox is a great example.
#3 Streamline your technology.
Stop it right now — do not drag another widget into your sidebar. I consider myself a therapist of sorts for the widget obsessed and my treatment may be a little controversial: strip out everything from your sidebar and start fresh. Because, sometimes, what takes your site to the next level is getting rid of the extra tech baggage you’re carrying around and starting with a clean slate.
Decide what needs to be above the fold.
What are the two or three most important things that need to be in your sidebar? Think of it this way: what three widgets do you get the most business mileage out of? Social links? Free downloads? Opt-ins? Search box? It’s different for everyone, so pick the few that are most important for your business and give them the top spots.
Only add essentials below the fold.
Once you have your top picks in place, ask yourself what else you really need in your sidebar. You want to make sure every element in your sidebar serves a clear purpose. Think of your sidebar elements as ads for different parts of your business; the fewer “ads” the less competition they face. Now, assess whether those bits of technology work with your site design. Here’s what I mean: it’s nice to find a neat plugin, but if you don’t have the CSS chops to customize it to actually look seamless and professional on your site, you may want to hold off. Neat functionality — particularly below the fold — typically isn’t worth trading design points for.
Question every new bit of tech.
There are tons of wonderful plug-in lists out there that can help you find fantastic tech options for your site. Read, bookmark and reference those posts, but break the habit of installing every single plugin that you read about. That’s because every plugin you install sucks a little more memory juice from your site and makes it run a few milliseconds slower. Those milliseconds add up when you have 10-15 unnecessary, activated plugins on your site.