Entrepreneurs: Which Websites Influenced Your Website Design?

Posted By Debbie on May 23, 2018

Earlier this year, I did a UX Optimization Report for an entrepreneur. Unfortunately, this was one where I suggested that he keep pretty much nothing from his current site, blast it off the planet, and start over.

He didn’t take the news as well as I’d hoped… considering he did ask me for the report and said that his business was wildly slow for months. Among the many reasons he gave me for why his current website is so good was that he had copied some famous marketing guru’s site.

I went to the guru’s site. It looked NOTHING like this guy’s site. The guru’s site was more of a hard sell than I’d like but from the perspective of just “website design,” it was modern, it had appealing colors, they put a lot of care into their writing, they used relevant media in the right places, and it was a strong site. This guy’s site looked nothing like it, which makes me think he copied some years-ago version and never went back for another round of copying.

I’ve been seeing a bunch of strange and poor websites for entrepreneurs. So here is the question.

Which website do you think is the most professional website out there? Or has the best mood and personality? Is the clearest and easiest to get around and use? Who are your idols or models in the website world?

You might go to your hairdresser and say, “I like [this celebrity’s] haircut.” That’s your model or your idol. Before having your website worked on, what do you think is THE best business website out there? Who has the most attractive, most modern, easiest to use, looks great on my phone website? Which websites inspire you?

In 2013, my idol website was Dolby, yes the sound labs people. They were one of the first I remember to use mega menus in navigation, which I loved. They used strong and warm colors, which I think the site still has. It made me want to use more of that on websites… better navigation and less black-on-white. That was 2013.

But here in 2018, I’ve been working lately with more small businesses and entrepreneurs. Some are asking for my reports on their sites as the site is being built or after it was just finished. And I’m seeing so much… not great… “web design.” It makes me wonder who they told their website designer their website idols were. And it makes me wonder if the website designer asked.

Some (not all) of the ones I have seen have looked like budget sites done quickly.

They have non-modern uses of fonts, space, modules, images, CTAs and other buttons. They have font and foreground colors that aren’t easy to read on background colors. They have footers that seem to be a foot high. They didn’t do much or anything to create a mood or personality for the site… like big businesses do.

I have to remember that people coming to me for a UX Optimization Report either are already having trouble with their website… it’s not converting at all or enough… or they are not sure they are happy with it (if it was just built).

Many of these sites do a poor job explaining the value proposition.

Who is this company, what do they do, for whom do they do it, and why are they the best. Instead, they lean on catch phrases like, “We’re badass!” and seem to miss some of the most important points of who their company is. Plus let’s remember the definition of badass… the last time I was called badass, I had just driven my motorcycle 2000 miles roundtrip including a day in 30mph swirling desert winds and temps over 100 degrees. People found that “tough,” but do I want to hire a badass service provider? I don’t normally think of hiring an accountant, lawyer, or other professional service provider who claims to be a “badass.” Do you want a tough, badass website designer? You probably want a talented, understanding one who isn’t tough or intimidating. 🙂

Many of these small biz websites overuse photos of the proprietor. I don’t expect pictures of the company owner on most or every page. That looks amateurish. Large companies don’t do that. Serious websites don’t do that. That seems outdated to me, plus if part of your message is, “It’s about YOU, the customer,” then the endless photos of the proprietor could negate that a bit.

Stop trying to make me sign up for your mailing list.

Many of the reports I’m writing break the news that this website has MANY ways to sign up for the mailing list. It pops up, it slides out, it’s everywhere. But you told me that your #1 desired action from visitors is to buy this thing or sign up for a consultation call with you. Why isn’t THAT everywhere? We can’t go “funnel” crazy and miss driving visitors to the main things you want them to do, which is probably the main thing THEY want to do. Hands up, who can’t wait to visit a website for the first time and join that mailing list! We’ve all become very good at closing those popups.

Runner up to that is the “Facebook Messenger chat with me right now!” No. That requires Facebook. Requires a login. Loses anonymity in case I have a question I find embarrassing. Professional companies are using Drift, Intercom, Zendesk, Olark, and other chat systems that don’t require logins. Customers will notice more and more when you use the cheap/free service vs the better chat service that isn’t free.

Find your dream websites… and why.

Before you work with your website designer, surf competitors and surf randomly. Find sites you really admire. And figure out WHY you like them. Find sites with great headers and navigation. Find sites with excellent photography that really conveys a mood.

And then follow through on that for your own website. Love websites with excellent photography? Hire a pro photographer. Don’t take the pics yourself.

Care about accessibility. Make things easy to read for people. Care about usability. Make things easy to learn and use. Think about priority of information… what info goes in what order… and remember that people are linear. Stop using columns. Stop jumping from left to right. Just because Divi can make a half-and-half module and you can put words on the left here but on the right here doesn’t mean I want to ski slalom my way down the page.

Care about modern website styles. Now that we’re in a flat button world, if you have fake-embossed buttons with a gradient and a shadow, you look really outdated. We’re all judging you. Because our fave websites changed to flat design years ago when it became the norm.

If your website designer isn’t doing a branding exercise with you, he or she may not be that great. If your website designer isn’t asking you WHY you love certain websites… and disagreeing with you at times, he or she may not be that great.

“I’ll grow into you.”

Someone who received one of my UX Optimization Reports told me that he/she expected that he/she would soon “grow out of” their current “website designer” and into Ptype. Well, thanks. No time like the present. But hey, you had your website done by that person in the last 6 months… and you already see yourself outgrowing them. I would hope a good website would last you longer. And I hope a strong, talented website designer is someone you can have a relationship with for many years.

Of course, you can have both. We’re happy to do specialty UX things and your website designer can install them.

Entrepreneurs, it’s not you.

When an entrepreneur or small business comes to Ptype, we have processes we use to learn more about who this business is, what mood and personality they are looking to portray, who the competition is, and what websites are the idols. We might push back and disagree on things. It’s a conversation. And a process.

If your website didn’t turn out that well or you like it but it’s not converting, it’s not your fault. You hired someone you thought was a pro. You paid good money. You expected more. You expected something modern, impressive, and strong.

As I’ve been saying for over 20 years, don’t worry, we clean up other people’s messes. If you would like another set of eyes on your website, please check out our UX Optimization Report. We send it to you, not your website designer. You can decide if you want to show it to him or her (or not).

Get that second opinion. Because it’s not you or your fault. This isn’t new and if you’re questioning your website, you’re not alone; we’ve done many of these reports in the last 10 years. We do them for startups, entrepreneurs, and medium size businesses who know something about their website or product isn’t quite right but can’t figure out where the weaknesses are. Ptype is your problem-finding and problem-solving specialist!