My website sucks. What now?

Understanding what your website does for your business, plus 5 tips to improve your website.

I’ve heard it more times than I can count.

“I don’t like my business’ website.”

As part of a Marketing Website Development team, it’s the often the top reason why clients come to work with us, but what’s bizarre is how often I hear those 4 magical words (“My business’ website sucks”) in social situations.

From weddings to funerals, from children’s birthday parties to Sopranos themed pool parties, inevitably someone will ask me “what do you do?” The moment the words “Develop Websites” leave my mouth, I will have 3 Tony Sopranos coming from 3 different directions to talk to me about their business’ terrible website.

I can understand why it comes up, I’ve seen a lot of terrible websites, but I’m always quick to ask: what don’t you like about your website?

“X company’s is better…”

“It doesn’t convert…”

“It just isn’t right…”

They’re vague responses but I get it. Most people can tell whether a business’ website is good or bad just by looking at it. However, if you ask those same people to explain what makes a specific website successful or unsuccessful, you will get a lot of blank looks.

Business owners know they need a website, but what makes a good website? Why is a website necessary? How exactly can a website help your business “get ahead”? And why are these people talking about their business’ website at a Sopranos themed pool party?

Let’s start by addressing that last question; a website can easily become an albatross around a business owner’s neck, always staying at the forefront of their mind. I’ve heard countless horror stories of websites that require endless revisions and yearly overhauls, where a website takes months or sometimes years to resemble something close to quality. Considering that each round of website development costs $2,000 — $35,000 USD (depending on complexity), it’s no surprise that:

Some people’s websites become a stressful, never-ending expense.

Why is it so painful to find the right development team? I’m going to be completely transparent; The website development industry is similar to the auto-mechanic and home renovation industries in that our services are in high demand and complex.

The complexity means there is a wide gap of understanding between the client and the service provider. The wider the gap the more likely a client isn’t able to properly gauge the quality of their service provider’s work. Uninformed clients are less likely to recognize poor quality, and are less likely to complain when an outcome doesn’t meet their expectations.

Unfortunately, some businesses aren’t motivated to provide better services because if you were to complain, there are plenty of other clients who need a new website. Some web development businesses survive by creating sub-par websites that look nice (if you’re lucky) but provide little benefit to the business itself.

"Service Quality Gap Model", this chart illustrates where "Gaps in Understanding" can occur between customers and service providers. Service quality, customer expectations, delivery standards, and the final delivered service.
Link: Where Gaps in Understanding tend to occur between Customers and Service providers.

You shouldn’t have to become a developer in order to have a great website. I’m going to provide you some guidelines of what makes a great business website so you can better gauge the success of your current website or of a prospective website development team. We’ll cover:

  • Expectations: Defining how your website can and can’t benefit your business.
  • Objectives: An explanation of how great websites convert clients.
  • Benchmarks: A list of tips and tricks to measurably improve your website.

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Expectations: What’s the point of a website?


A website attracts potential clients, customers, and employees.

Your website is just one of the components of attracting and converting potential opportunities. Marketing (via email, social media, blog, etc.) attracts attention to your website, while your website is your first opportunity to convert potential clients.

Chart titled "Importance of B2B website characteristics", B2B website visitors chose their top 3 website attributes. The attributes in order of importance are: Answers to questions (54%), easy navigation (52%), expert advice (39%), social proof (27%), compelling brand message (24%), videos and visuals (23%), beautiful design (22%), team photos and bios (11%).


Answers potential client’s crucial questions

Your website is your business’ dating profile. Potential clients visit your website to evaluate you, likely comparing the features of your business to your competitors in order to decide which business is their best match. Frequently, clients are looking to know:

  • What services or products you provide
  • Prices
  • Process
  • The story and personality of your business and team

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Side Note: Do B2B business really need a great website?

B2B business owners can be skeptical when it comes marketing in general, when in actuality a great website should matter more to B2B businesses.

A great B2B website not only creates a positive first-impression, it also supports your potential clients throughout their “Buying Process”, reassuring clients that your business will solve their problems and is worth the money they’re about to give you.

Dr. Jakob Nielsen is a god within my industry, as the Co-Founder of the Nielsen Norman Group he has worked with hundreds industry giants (Princeton University, Visa, Disney, Pfizer, the list goes on). This is what he has to say on the subject:

“B2B purchases are often big-ticket items or service contracts. The sites’ products and services are often extremely specialized, with complex specifications… Decisions made on B2B sites can have long-term implications: customers aren’t just making a one-time purchase, they’re often buying into a long-term vendor relationship that includes support, follow-up, and future enhancements and add-ons.”

Chart titled "Distribution of buying groups' time by key buying activities". Chart has a n of 750 B2B buyers. In order of most important to least is: researching independently online (27%), meeting with buying group (22%), meeting with potential suppliers (17%), researching independently offline (18%), other (16%).
Link: The majority (27%) of your client’s buying time is spent researching online, therefore it’s important to have a solid website.

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Objectives: How to hit the mark

Our goal is to convert clients by answering their questions. So how do websites answer questions? There’s two main methods:

  1. Clarity (Achievable): All of your business’ functional information (price, services, etc.) is presented clearly on your website.
  2. Marketing (Challenging): How you verbally and visually represent your business connects with potential clients to the point of becoming memorable.

Objective 1 — Be Clear

A clear website makes the client’s question-answering process quick and easy. In a world where time means money, clients aren’t willing to spend time on unclear websites.

Your clients aren’t being lazy, they’re busy. It takes a lot of time and energy to find the right service, product, or business. Clients value a clear website because it not only shows respect for their time and energy, but it’s a sign of how the business itself runs. A clear and helpful website is a sign of a clear and helpful business.

Here are 2 Design Tips to improve your websites clarity

TIP ONE: Put yourself in your client’s shoes

  • Work with your team to brainstorm common client questions. The kinds of questions clients ask when they’re getting to know your business and services. Document the answer to each question, those answers inform what information should be front-and-centre on your website.
  • Write down the key information your client would be searching for; products, services, prices, and specifications. Investigate your competitor’s website, in order to find additional categories of information that your clients would value seeing on your website.

TIP TWO: Small paragraphs are good, bullet points are better

Busy people don’t read long paragraphs. Only those clients who are already invested in your business will endure reading a “wall of text” website. If you want your website to convince and capture client attention, your paragraphs should be 2–5 sentences max.

Then ask yourself, could this paragraph be a bulleted list? Paragraphs that contain the basic facts of your business (prices, services, specifications), should be a bulleted list, so clients can quickly scan and find key information.

Two blocks of text, both show Morpheus's speech to Neo from the movie "The Matrix". The point is to show how a long speech can be broken into smaller "chunks" in order to be easily scanned by readers. A sample of the speech: "The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room…"
Nothing rivals Laurence Fishburne’s monologue in “The Matrix”, but if he had to deliver the same information via a website, the version on the right would ensure “The One” was less likely to miss crucial information.

Objective 2 — Marketing

For the sake of brevity, we’re going to greatly simplify the process of Marketing and say it’s a two step process:

  1. Discover your Target Audience — Understand what group(s) of people most need or want your products or services. Once you find those group(s), learn more about them; their problems, personality, demographics, etc.
  2. Communicate with your Target Audience — Create a website that speaks to your Target Audience in a way that matters to their inherent wants and needs.

A marketing website shows your Target Audience you empathize with them, greatly increasing your chances of conversion. Marketing is a process of becoming memorable to the right people, assuring your audience of your expertise, while finding opportunities to stand out among the competition.

A notable study conducted by the global analytics and advice firm Gallup found:

The clients of memorable businesses increased their profitability, revenue, and relationship growth by an average of 23%.
“…retail banking industry, customers who are fully engaged bring 37% more annual revenue to their primary bank than do customers who are actively disengaged. “
“Hospitality: Fully engaged hotel guests spend 46% more per year than actively disengaged guests spend.”

Marketing is more than “looking shiny”, it’s a collection of evidence that demonstrates your business’ proficiency and authority within your industry. Creating a true Marketing website takes significant effort, research, and expertise, that’s why people pay the “big bucks” to get professionals to make them.

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Benchmarks: Tips & Tricks

I’ve peppered this article with a number of tricks to help you assess and improve your website, but I wanted to leave you with a couple more. Below you’ll find a list of the top 3 ways I measure a websites success. So feel free to open a new tab, pull up your website, and see if you’re hitting the mark. Good luck!

TIP 1: Be clear, say what you do.

Knowing that the vast majority of potential clients will only spend 10–20 seconds on your website, how quickly can people find your business’ key information?

Here’s how you can test the clarity of your website:

  1. Find someone who isn’t familiar with your website.
  2. Navigate to your website’s home page.
  3. Time how long it takes that person to find: [a] Your business’ industry, [b] the main services you provide, [c] How you go above and beyond your competition.

If the person assisting you takes longer than 20 seconds to find all three pieces of information on your homepage (or the information can’t be found), it means your home page isn’t clear enough.

A screenshot of the top of Tandem's homepage. The content reads: "Softawre development & consulting. Gain clarity and control in software development. Clearly define and build the solutions you need to grow your business. Trusted by businesses and entrepreneurs. Delivering essential results for a variety of competitive industries."
We purposely designed our home page so any client wouldn’t need to scroll in order to find those 3 key pieces of information. Clarity will win you customers.

TIP 2: Where’s your proof?

A) Are there reviews, testimonials, statistics, awards, or accreditation on your home page?

Reviews help ease clients worries, it’s proof that your business exists and has a history of satisfied customers. Make sure to put any proof in the top-half of your home page.

B) Are you using a third-party source (like Google Business) to collect reviews?

For better or worse, third party reviews are considered more legitimate and impartial.

C) Do you use evidence to back up the statements you make about your business?

“We’re number one in our city!”, “we’re inclusive!”, “customers love us!”, these statements are easy to ignore without proof. Challenge yourself to find proof to support these kinds of statements, otherwise, I would be wary to include them on your website.

Here’s some ways to provide proof if you don’t have statistics or testimonials:

  1. Show deep understanding: For Tandem’s Careers page I wrote “Many people on our team have had jobs where our work or input hasn’t been appreciated.” I wanted to empathize with potential candidates and show that we’re interested in talking about a situation other businesses may try to sweep under the rug.
  2. Make a guarantee and stand by it: A “money back guarantee” is a good example, it’s an actionable way of standing by the quality of your business and services.

TIP 3: Skip the jargon

Consider the knowledge-level of your clientele, is it likely that they’re familiar with the terminology of your industry? Explaining complex terms or using common language makes it easier for your clients to learn about your business. If you use too much jargon, clients are likely to get confused or simply tune you out.

Here’s how you can test whether your website has too much jargon:

  1. Ask a family member, friend, or colleague to read through your website. It’s best if this person is as familiar with your industry as one of your potential clients.
  2. Ask them to write down any words or phrases they aren’t immediately familiar with.
  3. Go through each listed word or phrase and determine whether you can simplify, explain, or if it would be better to exclude from your website.

Try copying your website’s content into a readability checker, as a rule of thumb your content should be at a high school reading level.

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Thanks for reading!

If you’re interested in more tips and tricks on improving your website, check out this article.

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