Effective vs Ineffective Websites: What’s The Difference?

Effective vs ineffective websites: What is the difference

Let’s say you’re comparing two websites.

One has a really dated design while the other uses bright, eye-catching colors. It’s tempting to point at the prettier website and say, “that’s the better one!”

But that’s just surface-level stuff.

A pretty design, or even great copy, doesn’t make a website effective.

A website is effective when it helps visitors’ achieve their goals AND delivers results that align with the goals of the business.

But how do you build an effective website? What elements do you need to produce results?

In today’s article, I focus on 3 key areas of websites – CTA’s, content, and user experience – all of which heavily influence how effective (or ineffective) a website can be.

If you’d like to learn more about building websites that convert, join my newsletter to get updates on my 4-week bootcamp, How to Build Websites That Convert.

The cart opens January 23rd and the bootcamp starts on February 1st, so keep an eye out for updates.

Alright, let’s dive in with the first thing that makes for an effective website: CTA’s.

#1: Calls to action (CTA’s)

Effective website: Focuses on 1-2 primary CTA’s

A website is a sales tool, which means it should be designed to help businesses – and visitors – achieve specific goals.

Most businesses (and visitors) have multiple goals, but not every goal is created equal. 

If you want a website that gets results, you must prioritize each groups’ goals, so you can focus on the actions that matter most.

For example, let’s say your business offers car detailing services. Your primary goal is to get people to pay for the service, while your visitors’ primary goal is to have a clean car.

To help both parties achieve their primary goals, the primary call to action (or CTA) should be “Book an appointment”

The primary CTA should be used most throughout the website and should also be supported by secondary CTA’s like “Contact us,” “Call us” or “Visit us in person,” all of which support the primary goal of both the business and potential customers.

Any tertiary goals you may have (like getting visitors to subscribe to your newsletter or follow you on social media) can be woven into your content strategy, but they should never be treated the same as your primary (or secondary) CTA’s.

Instead, you’ll want to put them in relevant places where they’re NOT competing with the primary or secondary CTA’s (like the footer, on relevant sub pages, the blog, etc).

Ineffective website: Asks visitors to take too many actions (or none at all)

In contrast, an ineffective website does not prioritize the goals of the business, nor the goals of the visitor.

Without prioritizing, you end up with too many CTA’s – many of which are competing or featured at the same level of importance, making it difficult to know which action is the best one to take.

While some ineffective websites ask visitors to do too much, others don’t ask visitors to take any action at all (or, they don’t ask visitors to take action at the right moment).

Either way, the end result is a website that confuses and frustrates visitors, delaying them from taking action, or stopping them from taking any action at all.

⭐️ Key takeaway: If you prioritize your business goals and the goals of your visitors, you’re more likely to come up with a winning website strategy that gets results.

#2: Content

Effective website: Considers content through the lens of the target audience/visitor

While your website is a tool that can help your business achieve specific goals, it won’t produce results if you put your goals ahead of the visitor.

This means you must prioritize content that matters to the visitor – and their goals, needs, etc – over your own goals, wants, needs, etc.

For example, let’s say I sell a system that helps students achieve more academically while reducing stress at school. It’s a new product and most of my visitors are at the top of the sales funnel (meaning low awareness and low intent to buy at this time).

In this case, I should lead with content that educates the visitor by explaining the problem, the solution I’m offering, and how it benefits kids. I should invite the visitor to learn more because that’s why they came to the site (maybe even invite them, as a first step, to join my newsletter).

Even though it would help me to get more sales, I probably shouldn’t lead with a hard sell of the product because the visitor isn’t ready to buy – and that fact should be reflected in my content strategy.

It’s not that you never ask them to buy – it’s about asking them to buy at the right time/in the appropriate place (like on a product/sales page, in an email, during a sales call, etc).

Ineffective website: Considers content through the lens of the company/brand

In comparison, an ineffective website puts the goals, wants, or needs of the business ahead of the visitor.

For example, the other day I saw a word I had never seen before: “Feldenkrais.” When I did a Google search, I saw the “feldenkrais method” and clicked on their website to learn more.

When I got to the website, I didn’t find the information I was looking for (a simple explanation of what “the feldenkrais method” is).

Instead, I was greeted with what I would call “brand first” content – or content that prioritizes the brand over the visitor. Here’s what it said:

Unclear copy that does not match the visitors' goals or expectations

As you can see, the content is vague, uses unfamiliar terminology, and is cloaked in mystery.

It assumes the visitor knows more than they do, which is a great way to lose visitors who are at the top or middle of the sales funnel (which is exactly what happened – I got frustrated and left).

A better approach would have been a simple explanation of what the method is in a prominent place on the Homepage (in the hero or just below the fold), and adding a dedicated page in the primary navigation that explains the method, history, how it works, benefits, etc.

⭐️ Key takeaway: While your goals are important, they should never be prioritized over the goals/needs of the visitor (and your content strategy should reflect that).

#3: User Experience

Effective website: Gives visitors a clear & simple pathway to achieve their goals

When a visitor lands on your site, they typically arrive with at least one goal in mind.

For example, they may be checking out the product, looking for more information, trying to get in touch with you, looking for a discount code, and so on.

No matter what your visitors’ goals are, they should be able to accomplish them quickly and easily – and without frustration.

This can be done in many ways, but one of the most important is with a navigation that’s focused and ordered in a way that reflects your visitors’ goals, mindset, etc.

For example, let’s say you sell software and the majority of your target audience is in the middle or bottom of the sales funnel (meaning they’re actively searching for solutions and have intent to buy).

In this case, the navigation should include pages that will provide your visitors with information they’re most likely searching for, such as features, pricing, why they should choose you, and a CTA to schedule a demo.

To keep the experience streamlined and focused, it’s best to leave out pages that do not support your visitors’ primary goals, like “About us,” or “Media” or “Careers,” for example (in this case, they’re probably better suited for the footer).

Having too many options in the primary navigation will distract and pull away focus from the more important pages and actions you want visitors to take. 

To avoid a bloated nav, aim for 5 or fewer items in your primary navigation (no more than 7).

Along with an intuitive navigation, your CTA’s should be clear, accessible, and consistent throughout the site – and located in areas where visitors expect to see them, like at the top, middle, and bottom of pages.

Following these simple steps will allow users to find what they’re looking for quickly and easily, which will likely lead to them taking a desirable action that aligns with your goals.

Ineffective website: Gives visitors too many options with no clear way to achieve their goals

In comparison, an ineffective website uses a navigation filled with pages that don’t support the primary goals of their target audience.

Instead, the navigation is designed around the needs/goals of the business, which often leads to a bloated navigation with too many options and no clear pathway for visitors to find what they’re looking for.

And when you have a bloated nav, the primary CTA’s often get lost – either forgotten about by the company, or more likely, missed by visitors.

When visitors can’t find CTA’s, this can cause frustration, confusion, and lead to undesirable results, like higher bounce rates, less engagement, and lower conversion (among other things).

⭐️ Key takeaway: Build your navigation around your visitors’ primary goals/mindset, etc. Avoid stuffing the navigation with unnecessary pages and always make sure CTA’s are clear, prominent, and accessible.

Want to learn how to build an effective website that gets results?

I hope you found these tips helpful and now have a better sense of how to build more effective websites.

If you’d like to learn more about building websites that convert, join my newsletter to get updates on my 4-week bootcamp, How to Build Websites That Convert.

The cart opens on January 23rd and the bootcamp starts on February 1st, so keep an eye out for updates.

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