With all of the free tools available on the web today, it’s easy to build a website. The hard part is creating a site that’s strategically geared to drive sales.
For your website to get the results you’re after, your website needs be graphically appealing, and more importantly, it needs to drive your message home and encourage people to take action.
Easier said than done, right?
That’s why Kelli Claypool asked us to take a look at her site, Business and Learning. She wants to encourage more sign-ups for her membership-based community and asked us to kick the tires and take the site for a spin to see what we can do get her business on the fast track to success.
Without further adieu, let’s fire those engines!
My initial reaction to the site is very positive. The site looks polished and professional. The colors are nice and the font choice is very pleasing. Because of the site’s professional look, it feels like a reputable business to me.
I like the tagline — “your online source for the work-at-home professional”. I think I would make that more prominent. Right now, that is getting lost because of the font and all of the other text.
It took me a little bit to fully understand what your business does. One of the main reasons for that is that you’re missing a “About” page on the site. An “About” page tends to be the first place people go when visiting a site (myself included). It appears that kind of content is on the “Admissions” page, but I think that is a bit misplaced. You need a clear place for people to go to find out what you’re all about.
The other thing I didn’t see is a picture of you on the site. Although your name is signed to the bottom of a number of pages, I never saw anything about who you, your relationship to the business or your background.
If you want people to buy from you, it helps them if they can see the face behind the business.
And, more importantly, people connect to stories. Tell them why or how you started the business, how long you’ve been doing this and where you came up with the idea. Give people a reason to connect with you since you are offering a very personalized service.
Although I like the image in your header, I don’t think it’s the best choice for a site that’s geared towards people who work at home. I doubt most people who work from home are wearing suits every day. I would consider replacing that image with a person who is much more relaxed and wearing more casual clothes. I think your target audience relate to that better.
In looking around a bit more on the homepage, I notice that the “News” section appears to be your blog. If it’s a blog, then call it that. When I see a “News” section, I expect to see press releases or news items about a company. Since that’s not what this is, I would go ahead and call it a blog.
The video on the homepage offers a nice snapshot of what your business is about. Can you make it more prominent? People love videos and I think this would be a great way to engage visitors to the site.
The signup for the free report could be formatted a little better. The field names are a bit cluttered so it’s hard to read. Also, I would strongly recommend just requiring an email address to sign up. The fewer fields you have people fill out, the more likely they are to sign up.
Also, I would like to know more about what the free report is. Instead of just saying you get a special report, tell me what’s in it. Is it 52 secrets to finding more time in your schedule? Is it a step-by-step tutorial about using Quickbooks? Whatever it is, sell it and give people a reason to sign up. They don’t have any reason to sign up now.
I wouldn’t put the RSS subscription right underneath the email sign-up. I would move the RSS subscription to the blog page. Right now, those two sign-ups fight with each other. If your primary goal is to get the email sign ups, then put that on the homepage and push the RSS sign-up elsewhere.
Since you have the links to connect to your Facebook and Twitter pages, I don’t think you also need the Facebook widget beneath it. I think that might be overkill.
The main navigation bar should be in a different color than the rest of the header. I think it gets a little lost this way. Another option would be to eliminate the blue background in the header and make your navigation bar blue. Either way, the bar should stand out, not sink into the background.
I also don’t think you need a drop-down menu since there are only one or two items underneath each menu option.
One of the biggest problems I see on the site is how it’s structured. Right now, when you click on most of the navigational items, you find out that the information is for members only. I would consider
the site a bit so that you have basic information about the program on the public side and then put the rest behind the members-only section.
I would love to see a nice slide bar on the home page that tells me “what this is”, “how it works” and “how to sign up.” Outright does a nice job of this and might be a good model for you to consider.
Or, if you want to keep the navigation as-is, I would use each of the pages to talk more about what that section does when you become a member.
For instance, tell me more about what the “study hall” is and how it works. I would LOVE to know more about who your faculty members are (assuming those are folks who provide guidance and support in the program). Give me a page with short bios and photos of all of your faculty members to show what kind of expert support you will get.
Those pages really need to provide a better glimpse into what happens on the “other side” when you become a member. That will help people be more interested in signing up!
There appears to be no other way to get to the blog than through the homepage. I would consider adding the blog to your main menu navigation.
When I get to the bottom of the page, I notice this nice image-based navigation. I think it looks really nice, but I don’t think that it will be used very much. That said, is it needed?
This page is where all the meat is on the public side of the site right now. And as a result, it makes the site feel very lopsided. You’ve crammed a lot of information into that page. I would encourage you to break it up a bit. Put the “About” information on another page.
Also, I would encourage you to simplify your product offering grid. I would explain what your packages include either above the grid or on a separate page altogether.
Your site could really benefit from following more of a product website model that shows a features page and then a pricing page. Harvest does a nice job of this and might be a model for you to consider.
The bottom of the page has a lot of disclosures and additional information. Why don’t you put that on a separate FAQ page?
If you want to increase membership sign-ups on the site, there are several things that I think you can do that will really help:
- Who is your ideal customer? Focus your copy throughout the site on identifying with your prospects. What are their pain points? For instance, maybe they feel isolated working from home and need encouragement and support. If that’s the case, spell it out and talk about how you can solve that problem. Look at some other sales pages to see how writers grab the reader’s attention by acknowledging that they understand what the reader is going through BEFORE they tell you how they can help.
- Increase the call to action. I think one of the biggest reasons you’re not getting sign-ups is that you don’t have a call to action anywhere on the site. Consider including a “join now” item to your navigation menu or, even better, create a custom button for the home page.
- Add testimonials. We all do a good job of singing our own praises, but it’s even better when it comes from a third party. Prospective customers want to know what kind of experience others have had with the program. Get some success stories and testimonials to add to your sales page. It will work wonders.
- Promote the free sign-up. The fact that you’re offering free access to the forum is HUGE. Make a big deal out of that. I had no idea there was anything for free on the site until I scroll down to the bottom of the admissions page and read all the way through that grid.
- Change the language. I understand why you’re using the “pay tuition” language for to stick with your college campus theme. However, I think you would be better off to use something more welcoming like “join the community” or “get your membership” to encourage more sign-ups. When I think of college tuition, I automatically think of thousands and thousands of dollars. That’s a negative connotation that I don’t think you want associated with your reasonably priced products. You might want to do some split testing here to which option drives better results.
A few other details
- Why do you have a separate RSS feed for comments? I think that’s just a distraction and isn’t necessary.
- Why is today’s date in the top left of the homepage? I don’t think that’s necessary. People should know what day it is.
- Your contact page encourages people to “fill out the form below”, but I’m not seeing a form there. Something might be broken.
- I notice that your name is signed in a script font on the bottom of a few pages, but I don’t think that’s necessary. We don’t see your name anywhere else on the site, so how do we know who that is or why it’s there? I’d ditch this.
- You have a retweet button and sharing icons on every page. The only place I would use that would be on your blog posts. It doesn’t make sense to have it on your contact page or membership pages with blank content. If your site is built on something like WordPress, this should be an easy fix.
It’s Your Turn!
Now it’s your turn
– what did we miss? Is there anything else Kelli can do to improve her site and encourage more signups? Kelli wants to hear from you (and so do we!), so share your feedback in the comments!
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P.S. Think this might be helpful for your website? If you want your website to get better results, check out our website critique service and we’ll be happy to take your site for a spin too!
2 replies on “Website Critique – Business and Learning”
Laura, you did a great job. Again like your last review, I had trouble gaining an understanding upfront. While you liked the video, I still feel that some upfront text is needed for every format.
I’d dare say that the text on the admissions page needs to be on the front.
I also agree with the assessment on the price grid- seems like it could be simplified.
You really nailed it
Thanks for the kind words, Todd. More importantly, thanks for weighing in with your thoughts. You’re right – some basic text on the homepage about the business, would be a good thing. It doesn’t have to be much – just enough to let the visitor know what’s going on.