Website.

Short attention span ... your site must share a quick and concise message.

The first contact most potential customers will have with your business is through your website, so it can’t be tired and old. Here are nine tips on how to refresh your website.

DON’T LOOK CHEAP

Your website doesn’t have to be a work of art, but it shouldn’t look too cheap or ugly either. “If it looks cheap then you attract customers wanting cheap; if it looks good you’ll attract a better quality of client,” says Peter Ball, managing director of Exa Web Solutions. “It’s not that hard to get a decent design, it’s probably the easiest part of a website.”

NOTHING’S BROKEN

Database errors, links that don’t work, clicking onto pages that won’t take you back to the homepage – these infuriate users mad and drive away potential customers. “It’s more important to get the basic functionality right than to have something really fancy,” says Ball. All sorts of things can cause website errors, so once a week spend five or 10 minutes clicking around your site to make sure all the links work. And if you have a web-based contact form, test it regularly to ensure that you’re still getting those business leads.

GET MOBILE

Smart phone and tablet use is rocketing, with mobile devices are forecast to comprise10 to 20 per cent of the total web audience this year, so you need to make sure your website will work on mobile devices. “Mobile users expect quick access to the most relevant information, without heavy graphics, animation, or downloads, and it's relatively straight forwards to setup a mobile-friendly template for your website,” says Mack Nevill, founder and creative director of digital agency Evolution7. “We recommend you identify the most important content in your site and optimise it for mobile, rather than just shoehorning pages of content five levels deep into a mobile interface.”

CLEAR MESSAGE

When someone comes to your site you’ve only got their attention for a very short time so you need to communicate your core message quickly and concisely. “You need to tell the user why you’re better than the next guy and why they need to buy your services or read further,” says Michael Rom, a director of Netstarter. To convert interest into business, you need to follow up with a strong call to action, a prompt to users to call or seek more information.

DON’T CLUTTER

Write the copy for your website, then halve it and then halve it again, says Rom. And use dot points. “It’s about having clean aesthetics and sufficient use of white space,” he says. “If you can imagine going to a site that’s got a lot of copy, a lot of links and a lot of graphics and everything’s all over the place, it’s very difficult for the user to focus and read the key message.”

USE THE TOP RIGHT-HAND CORNER

The first place a web browsers eyes drift towards is the top right of the screen, so use the space for a call to action, says Mike Larcher, director of web agency Acidgreen. Use a different colour that stands out and a phrase like “call now” or “free quotes” with a button to press. “

SEO

When you’re refreshing your website, don’t forget search engine optimisation - making sure your site contains key words about your business that will show up in search engines. SEO has spawned an entire industry, but Larcher says the basics are to ensure the key words for your business appear often on your pages and to be as specific as possible. For instance, just putting “plumber” on your site would mean you’re competing to be noticed by search engines against all of the other plumbers in Australia and Google would be unlikely to give you a listing. More specific words such as “plumber North Shore Sydney” will win you more hits.

GET ANALYTICAL

If you haven’t got it already, get Google Analytics. This free service from Google offers detailed information on how people use your website – how long they stay and which pages they visit. Louise Gorrie, director of Sydney-based web design agency Digital Finery says small businesses should use the service to find out which phrases people come to the website for after a search. “Make sure you’ve got the content to match and that’s quite an easy win,” she says.

WATCH A USER NAVIGATE

Gorrie says that a rule of thumb in website design is “don’t make the user think”, so ensure that the site is easy to navigate, because if people can’t easily find what they want they’ll go elsewhere. “Show the site to a few people and see how they navigate their way through the pages, because people never use your website like you think they do,” Gorrie says. “Get them to find something specific on the site and see if they can find in and that might give you some ideas to improve the navigation.”

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