Virtual site clinic recap: April 2020

We had another great site clinic session last night with 17 attendees joining our Zoom call at peak. A special thanks to everyone who submitted their site for review!

Our next site clinic will be on Wednesday, May 20th at 6pm ET.

Here are some of the big takeaways from our session this evening:

Don’t share more info than necessary.

One of our members used a service called iubenda to generate a privacy policy for their site. The privacy policy included their private home address.

Organizations often need to disclose their physical address to comply with different privacy & communications regulations. The specifics vary depending on the region and scenario.

If you’re sending an email newsletter to Canadian recipients, for example, the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) requires that you include a physical mailing address in your emails.

That’s fine if you’re a business with an office address, but what if you’re an individual? Surely you wouldn’t want to disclose your personal home address.

Depending on the requirement, you can use a mailing address instead, like a PO box. Some coworking spaces also offer professional mailbox services, accepting snail mail and package deliveries on your behalf.

You can also protect your home address by using domain privacy. That’s usually offered for free or as a paid add-on, depending on your domain name registrar.

A good rule of thumb: If the site is for a business, the address should be public. If the site is for personal use (personal blog, hobby site, etc) you don’t need to include your address.

“Wayfinding” is the means by which people navigate through physical space. Signage, audible signals, and physical features are all cues to help people find their way. (Hence the name!)

Your site also needs clear wayfinding cues to help visitors find their way around. There are three big things on your site that help with wayfinding:

  1. Your site’s header and navigation menu
  2. Your URL structure
  3. Your sitemap

Your site’s header and navigation menu should be consistent from page to page. It’s the “anchor” that visitors rely on to get around.

If you’re building a blog, for example, you may want to have your navigation menu link to the category archives for your posts.

Presentation on organizing site content with site navigation and wayfinding

Your URL structure is a secondary signal. Let’s say you’re building a site for a business. The URL structure may look something like this:

  • www.bizname.ca
  • www.bizname.ca/services/
  • www.bizname.ca/services/consulting/

Just by looking at the URLs, we can make an assumption about what the pages include: The /services/ page describes the services the business offers, and /consulting/ is one of their services. By changing the URL, a visitor could get to the /services/ page.

Your sitemap is a big ol’ list of every page on your site. One common practice for building a site — especially one that has a lot of information — is to create the sitemap in advance as part of the website planning process.

An XML sitemap is a machine-readable version of your sitemap. It’s used by Google and other search engines to index your site. If you want to learn more about it, the team at Yoast SEO have a great post covering XML sitemaps.

Make your site load quickly.

The faster your site loads, the better. It improves the experience for your site’s visitors, so they’re more likely to stick around. It can also boost your site’s SEO performance.

A few pointers for improving the speed of your site:

Use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to see what’s wrong. It’ll grade your site and offer some recommendations for improvement. If the recommendations are too technical and over your head, consider hiring a WordPress developer to help you out.

Use fewer images and/or compress the images on your site. Large images can eat up a lot of bandwidth and cause your site to load slowly. If you have images on your site that are purely decorative, consider removing them.

If you need images, e.g. you’re building an eCommerce website or a photography site, use appropriate image sizes. A high-res photograph that’s suitable for printing is usually too big for use on the web.

You can compress images at the source if you’re using a desktop app like Photoshop or Lightroom. These have comprehensive export options for creating lossless images.

You can also compress images using a 3rd party service like CompressPNG or CompressJPEG, or with a plugin like EWWW Image Optimizer, Kraken.io and reSmush.

Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN). A CDN creates copies of your site on servers that are geographically closer to your site’s visitors. This makes your site load faster for them, while spreading the load across multiple locations.

[ Related: Content delivery network (Wikipedia) ]

The Jetpack plugin includes a lightweight CDN feature for loading images from WordPress.com’s CDN servers. You could also use a service like Cloudflare (the Free plan includes their CDN) or Sucuri.

Use a caching plugin like Super Cache. This makes it so your site’s users aren’t waiting for WordPress to generate every post or page they visit. Instead, the caching plugin will save a static version of the post/page, and your visitors will see that instead.

Note: CDN and caching plugins may cause problems with eCommerce sites. Check the configuration settings and documentation of whatever tool you choose to work with.

Also note: Managed WordPress hosting providers typically have a caching solution baked into their platform, so you won’t be able to run an additional caching plugin on top of it.

Have a prominent call-to-action.

A call-to-action, or CTA, is a cue for your site’s visitor to do something.

Common website CTAs include:

  • “Register”, “Sign Up”, “Log In” on web applications
  • “Buy Now”, “Place Order”, “Add To Cart” on eCommerce websites
  • “Subscribe” on blogs and publications
  • “Contact Us”, “Book Appointment”, “Request Quote” on business sites

Common CTA placements include:

  • Website header, footer, and sidebar
  • Above or below posts and pages
  • In a triggered pop-up

Every page on your site should have a primary CTA. That’s the most important action that should be visible and accessible no matter where you are on the site. For a business, this might be “Contact Us” or “Request a Quote”. For a nonprofit, it’s probably “Donate Now”. For a personal blog, “Subscribe” or “Follow”.

The primary CTA can be supported by secondary and tertiary CTAs. These should be prominent as well, but not as prominent as the primary CTA.

[ Related: Call-to-action examples from HubSpot ]

Emphasize what makes you different.

If you’re a small business, how do you stand out from your competitors, especially if you’re providing the same types of products or services? By focusing on what makes you different.

Are you a service provider? Don’t just describe what you do. Describe how you do it. Walk potential customers and clients through your process. This will help them imagine what it’s like to work with you.

Are you selling products? Wrap your selection in a theme or story. Why do you sell the products that you do? What made you choose them for your inventory? What’s special about these products? What problems do they solve? What is it like to use? Wear? Eat?

Get found by publishing content about what you sell. Service providers can share their advice and answer questions through social media, Facebook groups, YouTube videos, and blog posts. Retailers can share product reviews and demos (great for YouTube and blog posts), bundle products into sets and packages (great for promotions), and showing their products getting used in the wild (great for Instagram).


That’s it for this month!

Don’t forget to join us on Meetup and Slack. (You can request a Slack invite here.)

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