Etty Payne, a freelance editorial professional, was in need of some advice on how to improve her website. In December 2016, she engaged me to review her Elegant Words site and provide recommendations on how it could work better. She was happy with my video-based approach to the review, and kindly wrote me this extended testimonial.
Delighted by video
The video was 13 minutes long and covered every page of my site. He had looked at the site in advance and had some notes prepared, so I could tell he’d already thought about various aspects, which was reassuring.
His video showed me clearly how my site looked on other devices and that users had to scroll or drag across the screen to see all the page.
I knew this was a problem but I’d never found the time to do anything about it. It didn’t feel like a priority. The site was put together several years ago, completely from scratch. I’d considered using a template at the time but I couldn’t find any that looked the way I wanted my site to look. But even if I had used a template, at that time they weren’t mobile friendly anyway. Now they are.
Anyway, John really stressed (very politely!) how important it was to make my site responsive even if I didn’t follow any of the other advice on his video, and his clear visual evidence of how it looked to other users prompted me to get it done without further delay.
Walls of text
Another important issue John found – the “absolute wall of text” – was a more difficult one for me. I agree that a “wall of text” is offputting, but we may have different opinions about what constitutes a wall of text. For me, it mainly means very long paragraphs. But I do know that when you provide a service, you have to give clients what they will want. I know what I like: a simple look but no over-simplification of content, and certainly no dumbing down.
I love sites with plenty of substance in one place and I tend to veer away from sites that are thin on information or make me click elsewhere too often to find out more. I’d rather scroll down a long list than be given just part of list and then have to click to get the rest of it. And I prefer the home page to give me all the links I’m likely to need rather than find out by chance that there are pages embedded within other pages. I certainly prefer a linear approach and I tend to think of the Home page as page 1. But maybe I’m unusual.
John did explain convincingly that not everyone starts at the home page and not everyone wants too much information all at once.
John made a number of other very helpful suggestions, all of which I’ve implemented. Most seem obvious as it’s about making things as easy for your visitors as possible, but when you’ve had your site a number of years, you stop seeing it as others see it.
- Increase the font size.
- Remove excess white space.
- Add my photo on my About me page: it was already on my home page but John correctly pointed out that it was odd not being on my About me page.
- Link to my SfEP Directory entry: it increases its ranking. John explained that it’s good for Google and other search engines to see my website and my Directory entry linked to each other. All very helpful advice.
- Make calls to action (‘contact me’ links) more prominent so it’s easy for prospective clients to get in touch.
- Feature at least one testimonial on each page: I have a page devoted solely to testimonials but John’s excellent suggestion means that wherever a visitor lands, there’ll be at least one testimonial visible.
John very tactfully pointed out some mistakes: an incorrect abbreviation; an out-of-date copyright notice; out-of-date Twitter and LinkedIn buttons; and out-of-date links to pages on the SfEP website. The links all worked, which is why I hadn’t noticed, but a redirect was in place. It’s easy to forget about or simply not notice details like that on your own website.
John’s review was tremendously helpful because it looked at the bigger picture (the overall impression my site makes on a visitor) and the tiniest details and everything in between. The whole tone of the review was helpful, clear and tactful and all his comments were easy to understand and backed up with clear justifications and explanations. And he found good things to say about my site too!
I’m really glad that Etty found my website review useful. Reviewing websites isn’t one of my core services, but if you’re still reading and would be interesting in me reviewing your site, drop me a line and let’s have a chat.