Free Website Review: – 6 Takeaways For Your Business Website

Free Website Review: - 6 Takeaways For Your Business Website
Asking us to review his site was like asking a kid to go to Toys R Us and play with his favorite toys. Marketing is a switch that’s always on. In church, I think how Jesus was the most skillful marketer. Driving down I-10 in El Paso, I wonder “what the hell some creative type was thinking when they designed that billboard?”

Back in March, Tiffany’s close friend Andy Frecka asked us to review his website.

He owns a boutique real estate agency in Russia that caters to expats moving to Moscow.

Asking us to review his site was like asking a kid to go to Toys R Us and play with his favorite toys.

Marketing is our passion.

It’s like a switch that’s always on.

  • When I’m in church, I think how Jesus was the most skillful marketer.
  • Driving down I-10 in El Paso, I wonder “what the hell some creative type was thinking when they designed that billboard?”
  • Sitting across from a client, my mind gets flooded with ideas on how to improve, grow, and systemize their sales and marketing.

Yes, I love tinkering in all things marketing. I can’t hold it back any more than I can stop a tidal wave. That’s why I jump at the chance to review a website and offer some thoughts on how it could be more effective at reaching its target audience.

Doing a website review also gives us an opportunity to help a friend improve their business or non-profit.

So, at Andy’s request, we put on our marketing lenses (like we ever take them off, ha!) and went to work. With his permission, we took all our notes, tidied them up, and turned them into the blog post you’re scanning this very moment.

In the process, we developed a nifty toolkit to help us review sites in a more methodical and practical way.

Let’s get started.

As a business owner, these are the questions you should be answering on your website

We created the list of questions below to accomplish two things:

  • Get ideas for improving your website content
  • Understand how design impacts your visitor’s experience

We purposefully left out the SEO or “meta” discussion. For that discussion you can visit our post on search engine optimization. There are other issues, such as page speed, your hosting provider, and a slew of other technical issues that most business owners would rather have someone else deal with.

These are the questions to ask yourself:

  1. Who is your website for?
  2. What problem does your organization or company solve?
  3. What are you asking your visitor to do?
  4. How easy is it to navigate and find information?
  5. Is it mobile friendly (AKA Responsive)?
  6. Does the design help or detract from the main message?

As we go through a website review, we look at two overarching themes.

Design: This includes colors, layout, and structure; and the overall branding of your website. We’re looking for consistency and a good flow between all the elements of the site. This also includes the fonts you use, and whether if you break up your text with images, recognizable headlines, sub-headlines, etc.

Content. This includes: What are you actually saying? Is your message a good fit for your audience? Is the action you want your visitor to take clearly identified on each page?

Here’s our review of of Andy’s website

1. Who’s your website for?

You only have a few seconds to make a first impression, especially if your site was found in search. So it’s critical that you have a clear headline on every page. You do a good job at calling out to your target audience:

Make Yourself At Home In Moscow With Expat Flat

“I’m an expatriate, and I’m looking for a home in Moscow, this site is for me.”

2. What problem does your company solve?

The answer is found in the main body of the home page. If I recall correctly, we had to dig for this copy in our first review.

“We are a boutique real-estate agency that specializes in tenant representation for expat clients. We combine native English customer service with native Russian expertise to ensure we understand what you want and deliver it.”

Before we reviewed the site, that key phrasing was buried in the Hints & Tips page, “tenant representation for expat clients.”

What’s still currently missing is stating problem they solve that makes them different from the competition. This is also found in their Hints and Tips page:

“That means we only represent you. And the result? We have no conflict of interest with the property owners. And our search for you is efficient because we are unencumbered by any agreements with the landlord…

We are expats ourselves, we have many expat friends, of course, and we have yet to meet anyone who has claimed to have received better service or real estate representation than through Expat Flat.”

That can be summarized as:

“We are expats and have expat friends. We quickly learned that agencies representing landlords were very biased. Expat Flat was created from a frustration of not knowing if we were being fairly represented. That’s why Expat Flat only represents you, the tenant.”

Another alternative can be the following:

“Expat Flat only represents tenants/renters. As expats ourselves, that’s how we’ve found the best locations to live in Moscow”

3. What are you asking the visitor to do?

Being bossy isn’t advisable if you’re a five-year-old at a playdate. But when it comes to marketing it’s actually okay.  Not telling your visitor what to do is an enormous mistake we see made on countless websites.  Expat Flat did a better job than most, and only needed to tidy up their call to action. Here’s a before/after screenshot:

  • Though small, the first thing you saw was “Follow us on facebook.” That’s not the primary call to action they were going for.
  • The button doesn’t tell me what I’m doing, other than getting started. Started doing what?
  • There is no other way to reach Expat Flat
  • Although the color of the button is strong, it blended with the rest of the site.

So let’s compare that to the changes they applied:

Dramatic improvements to the call to action!

  • The copy before the buttons is clearer and explains what they’re going to do once you click the button.
  • The prompts, “Rent” and “Purchase” are much more compelling and descriptive than, “Get Started”.
  • They added a phone number! I love this. Sometimes people just want to pick up the phone and talk to another human being. Good job on catching that!
  • Office hours. That’s another big one that gets missed, a lot.
  • The button colors stand out a bit more from the rest of the site’s color palette. Personally I would have gone with something more on the light blue side so you still get that vibrant color, but Andy’s color choice also works.

4. How easy is it to navigate and find information

Navigation with the top menu is simple to follow, and the order of the links have a nice flow:

Since our review, they made a few enhancements, like differentiating between renting and purchasing, and removing the “Let’s Go” button. That was a good move, because “Let’s Go” isn’t clear.

Navigation isn’t all about the menu bar. It’s also about how clear your messages are on each page and how well you guide a visitor through each page. I talk about this in the post on writing your “About Us” page. Is the content on each page scannable?

The best example of this is the revisions done to the Testimonials page. Even though the page clearly divided each testimonial, it wasn’t really guiding the reader.

Mark’s Story, Marcus’s Story, Catherine’s Story…

These crossheads didn’t really help much. Based on our suggestions, he took key phrases from each testimonial and turned them into powerful crossheads and added pictures to each testimonial:

“He cut out all the hassle…”

“I would not have know where to begin without your help”

“They Signed The Deal The Same Day”

These sentences tell a more persuasive story than a person’s name.

5. Is it mobile friendly

Being mobile friendly is kind of big deal. We wrote an entire post just on this topic alone. We provide 4 helpful points to understand the process.

  1. Know what mobile-friendly or responsive design looks like
  2. Understand why responsive design matters
  3. Find out if your website is mobile-friendly
  4. Decide if it’s time to give your website a new set of wheels

Expat Flat is not responsive, which is to say that it doesn’t adjust to fit the width of your browser window. This could be an issue if I am a prospect who prefers to search for apartments on my phone, iPad or other mobile device.

Also, Google give more love to mobile sites. So, if you have a competitor with a responsive website, Google will be more inclined to give that site preference in search results on a mobile device.

Expat Flat is not currently mobile friendly; but knowing Andy, he’ll get it there as soon as it’s feasible for him. It appears that it was built on a css grid, so there’s a good chance he can get it responsive without a great deal of extra work and programming.

6. Does the design help or detract from the main message

We loved the design from the start.

As designers, some websites make us want to cry. There’s a lot of really bad design out there. This wasn’t the case on Andy’s site!

His design was/is clean, clear, easy to read and easy to navigate. We’ve seen sites that cost thousands of dollars that that don’t even come close to Andy’s in design quality (of course none of those bad sites were designed by 8 Signal!).

So Andy, well done to you and your designer! To find things we didn’t like, we had to really get picky.

There was some inconsistency in how fonts were used throughout the site. These seem to have been fixed but new ones cropped up. For example, the About Us page has very large font under the “What if?” section.

This may be due to the content being wrapped in h4 tags. I would suggest instead is to wrap the text in the following code:

<li>Bullet point #1</li>
<li>Bullet point #2</li>
<li>Bullet point #3</li>
<li>and so on</li>

Overall, the design does a fantastic job of supporting the entire message of the website.

One other area of improvement for the site, which he’s taken initiative on his own, is to include more photos. Good photos can go a long way of telling your story. It’s important to use photos that support your story, not simply to fill a space so it doesn’t like it’s all text.

Sometimes you can do with fewer photos if your content is dressed up a bit. Scan back through this blog post and see how we’ve used headlines, bullet points, crossheads, bold, and italics to dress up the post.

So, how does your website stack up against these 6 questions?

Here are the 6 questions again:

  1. Who is your website for?
  2. What problem does this company solve?
  3. What are you asking your visitor to do?
  4. How easy is it to navigate and find information?
  5. Is it mobile friendly?
  6. Does the design help or detract from the main message?

If you decide that you want to tackle these on your own, don’t feel like you have to do all the questions at once. Take each one and really spend some time on it. Once you’ve answered the question as thoroughly as you could, you can move on to the next one.

Remember to take it one bite at a time.

What’s the benefit in getting a free website review?

It’s often said, “you get what you pay for,” so you might be wondering what the catch is. There’s no catch! We just love doing this kind of thing. With our free website review, we have some fun looking over your site and you’ll get clear actionable steps to take to improve your website.

Our detailed review will show you

  • What holds you back
  • What needs to be changed
  • How to improve your website’s effectiveness
  • How to transform it into a profitable marketing tool

And best of all, it’s free! Andy says it best:

“THANK YOU for all of your feedback. This is really valuable stuff. I will discuss these points in our meeting today and we will begin chipping away at it in these coming weeks. I have tried to read up on various articles on how to improve the website, but your feedback really helped me understand how to more specifically apply various things I have read (up until now it was theory that I found a bit aggravating because I didn’t know where to begin).”

Pick up the phone and call (915) 585-1919 or send us a note at We look forward to serving

(Photo credit: Roman Soto)