Usability expert Dr. Peter Meyers shows how Internet service web sites can often be the most unloved property, effectively killing their own message.

He introduces 5 simple steps to make your web site *pop*

We internet professionals have all experienced the cobbler's children dilemma - the poor cobbler is so busy making shoes for customers that his kids end up going barefoot.

We all complain about how we don't have the time to work on our own sites or how they aren't what we'd like them to be, but those sites continue to go shoeless.

Put shoes on your web site

Deep down, we all know the truth: our own websites are our face to the world, especially to new prospects, and they can make or break our business.

Be honest: Would you buy web-based services from a site that looks half-finished or hasnt been updated in 5 years?

It's time to put some shoes on your website, and I'd like to offer a few tips to get you started:

Make the time

1. Make The Time

We're all guilty of saying that we'll "find the time" to work on our own sites. Unfortunately, as soon as those words have left your mouth, you've already lost the game. When fires are burning, the phone is ringing, email is piling up, and Twitter is spitting out messages at the speed of Ashton Kutcher's ego, you're about as likely to find a unicorn as you are to find time. I know its clich, but you have to make the time. Carve out a spot in every day or at least a couple of times a week, even if it's only 30 minutes, and devote that time to your own website and internal projects.

If you're a company owner or manage a staff of developers, make your own website a priority for your employees. You can't just say it, though - you have to mean it. If you say "Our website is a priority!" but then scream at your staff every time they take time away from a client project to work on that website, you'll have only yourself to blame when nothing gets done (and when your staff quits). Treat your own website like you would a client's project.

Hire professional help

2. Hire Someone

Just because you can't hire a full-time employee doesn't mean you can't pay someone else to do a little work. We all tend to value our money much more than our time, to the extent that I've seen people turn down new business at $75+/hour while complaining that sub-contracting a project at $10-20/hour was "too expensive". Let's do the math: $75 - $20 = $55/hour, and someone else did most of the work. If you're overbooked, or if something just isn't a good use of your time, why not farm it out? You don't have to outsource it to the lowest bidder, just find someone reliable for a decent rate. There are a lot of reasonably smart and talented people in this economy looking for some side work.


3. Crowdsource

I suppose this is an extension of (2), but I think crowdsourcing has its own unique niche. I first encountered it when I rebranded and was looking to update my logo. I like to think that I'm a competent designer, and I had designed my previous logo, but I was never really happy with it, and I knew the new logo would take me at least 40 hours. By crowdsourcing the work, I ended up with a logo I was happy with for about $300. Granted, it took some hand-holding and probably about 10 hours of my time, but at my minimum billing rate, hiring someone else saved me almost $2,000. In addition, I think the real appeal of crowdsourcing, especially with something like logo design, is being able to see a variety of ideas before committing to a direction. Logos are always a bit personal, and even a very talented designer may not mesh with your thinking.

If you're going to crowdsource, here are a few tips from my own experiences:

  • Know what you want, and put it on paper
  • Find examples of what you like (and communicate why you like it)
  • Find designers you like and request their participation
  • Be pro-active " Give feedback early and often

There are quite a few crowdsourcing sites, but I can recommend crowdSPRING and Design Outpost as two companies with whom I've had good experiences.

Invest in Content

4. Invest in Content

We're all getting a little too used to free stuff on the internet, to the point that we almost feel like it's a personal affront to have to pay for anything. I'm amazed how often I'll spend $20-40 on a decent dinner or a movie and popcorn (and that doesn't count my wife), but balk at spending $10 on the perfect piece of clip art or a useful online service. This past year, I've made a concerted effort to invest in my own content. A recent infographic I did ended up costing me $40 in clip art, so that I could produce a professional looking EPS/PDF, and it was worth every penny. Whether it's your time or your money, content is worth investing in, even if it's "just" a blog post. Content is how you'll be found and often how you'll be judged - don't skimp on it.

Promote yourself

5. Promote Yourself

Finally, once your site is where you want it to be (at least for now), don't miss out on the opportunities at your disposal to cross-promote your own content, products and services. I recently launched a page for a new service and decided to use PPC advertising to promote it, because, let's face it, PPC is often the easiest place to start. It wasn't a big campaign, maybe $100/month, and I wasn't really seeing the results I wanted. One day, I had an idea, and decided to create a mini-banner on my site for that service. With a couple hours of work and one split-test with Google Website Optimizer, I had the ad approaching 2% click-through and generating more traffic to the page than my combined PPC campaigns. I'm not trying to bash paid search, but remember the opportunities available to you on your own site, including internal advertising, cross-linking blog posts, promoting featured content, etc.

So, what are you waiting for? Stop making excuses and go put some shoes on that website!