By Mikal E. Belicove|For Entrepreneur.com|October 21, 2010
Ask your target demographic what it thinks about your website’s usability, programming and design, and you’re bound to receive a variety of responses. These can range from “looks good to me,” to “I didn’t find what I was looking for,” or “I think it sucks.” Everyone has an opinion.
A more likely scenario is that you’ve never taken the time to ask your customers what they think about your website. And that’s a shame. If you’re like most start-ups or SMBs, you probably figure you know what’s best — or you hire someone who convinces you that they know what’s best for your business. Sadly, you allow that faulty thinking process to guide the programming and design of your company’s No. 1 or No. 2 marketing tool.
Over the years, I’ve asked thousands of people what they think about the websites, blogs, social networks and landing pages they visit, and one thing has been made abundantly clear. It’s you — the business owner or brand manager in charge of the company website — that’s, more often than not, out of touch with the reasons people visit your website. And, more often than not, you don’t have a clue as to what they hope to accomplish as a result of having visited your website.
With those simple — and I admit, highly opinionated — thoughts in mind, here’s a short list of common mistakes to avoid in website programming and design:
1. Self-Service: It’s one thing to pump my own gas. But having to search through an endless database-driven online knowledge management system to find the answer to a common question is another. Whether it’s to save money on live customer service or shield the company from a flurry of inbound phone calls, more businesses have chosen to make customer service self-service. From uber-FAQs to threaded online message boards and support forums, self-service is quite the trend.
But if you ask your customers which they prefer — speaking with a live person or finding answers online — most will prefer having both options. Here’s a possible solution: If the cost of live customer service and tech support is eating away at your bottom line, offer “premium service” for a set monthly fee. Just like extended warranties, lots of people buy them but hardly anyone ever takes full advantage of them!
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