Suggestons to improve site - particularly menu

I have a few websites, all with basically the same menu structure. See

https://www.kirkbymicrowave.co.uk/

for the site I am most bothered about. I did not write the CSS for this menu - it is well outside my skill level, but I wrote all the XHTML. I just use the vi text editor on a Linux or Unix system. To my knowledge, every page of the website passes the W3C validator, except for pages which include some PayPal forms. Every page passes the Google Mobile Friendly test site. I don’t think its too bad for search engines, and it has an EV SSL certificate, which is hardly necessary to be honest, as any purchases are done via PayPal, and the site does not collect any personal data.

The problem is, several people have made negative comments about the site

  • It looks dated
  • The ascetics are poor

The more I look at it, and compare it to other sites, the more I agree they are right.

I’m looking for ideas to improve it - especially the menu structure. The Kirkby Microwave 85033 SMA 7 GHz calibration kit you see on the sales menu has about 10 different options available for that, but I don’t have any way of putting them all on the menu.

I found some CSS on the web for a two-level menu, and whilst it worked on a desktop, it was not mobile friendly at all.

Can anyone suggest how I can improve the look of the site, and make it a bit more modern looking? In particular, I would prefer an improved menu.

I would rather stick to CSS and not Javascript.

Dave

For starters, add some columns to the grid. People don’t like to read long lines of text, which is what happens on a widescreen.

The menu has too many items and too much space between items.

The website could use a bit more decorative features such as background imagery and borders.

Information architecture: you can reduce the number of items with a sub-navigation scheme.

The feedback you’ve gotten so far is correct: it looks dated and the aesthetics are poor. One suggestion:

– If it is at all within your budget, hire a professional website designer. Yes, it will cost you money, but it will be money well spent.

If you don’t want to go that route and insist on doing it yourself, here are more direct suggestions:

– Incorporate branding into the site. The URL says Kirby Microwave. I guess that’s the name of the company, but there are no visual clues. The company’s logo and visual branding should be an integral part of the site.

– You color scheme is all over the place. Develop a cohesive color palette for the site (which should be based on the company’s branding.

– As designzombie mentioned, you need to work on the information architecture. One example of this is the FAQs. It’s fine if you want to have FAQ as part of the main menu, but don’t put all of the FAQs in the drop down menu.

– Having a site that validates is nice, but there’s no need to put the badges on your site.

– Hire a proof reader. With just a quick glance, I spotted grammatical errors.

– Consider reworking the site in WordPress. There are a ton of great looking WordPress templates (themes) out there that can be picked up for low cost / no cost.

Why? You’ll find more pre-built menu options if you’re open to using a little JavaScript/JQuery. You won’t need to write any JavaScript other than make a few minor modifications. The rest is basic HTML/CSS. For example: https://codepen.io/catalinred/pen/ngBJF

Menus should be short and to the point. They’re meant to quickly get people to those main areas of a site where the pertinent information resides. If needed, you can subcategorize things on those pages in other menus specific to those sections. What you should not do is try to cram a bunch of wordy information into what is really just the equivalent of a table of contents.

And speaking of wordy, your site goes into great detail on everything. It’s a technical site, so I suppose a certain amount of this is necessary, but honestly, a good copy editor would be able to trim down what you’ve written into something only half as long, that would say just as much and be twice as easy to digest.

This is all well and good and something that I might remind others to pay attention to. However, this is all backend stuff that really has little to do with the aesthetics of your site or whether or not it looks professional to your potential customers.

Your website’s front page doesn’t look like a front page — there’s no company name, no logo, no anything that most people have come to expect a front page to be.

A good thing you’ve done is to resist the temptation to decorate your site with a bunch of random typefaces, do-dads and multi-colored type in dozens of different sizes.

I don’t know about your other sites you mentioned, but judging from what you’re selling, I doubt your customers are all that interested in a stylish website. This simplifies things into just making the site functional and looking like it belongs somewhere within this particular decade rather than the 1990s.

I can’t teach you how to design your site in a few paragraphs. It’s taken me years to get to that point. I might recommend, however, that you not try to design your site yourself because, well, you’ve already given it your best shot.

Now that you’ve waded through all of that, my recommendation is to ignore half of what I’ve written and use a content management system (CMS), like Wordpress. Then find a good template in which to add all your content. This way, the menu and the general design would already be included, and you could concentrate on just adding your content instead of coding everything from scratch.

This is such a no-brainer to graphic designers that it didn’t occur to me it was missing. It almost seem sarcastic to say good catch. I know the OP has a company logo because it’s in the favicon. But the favicon is obviously not enough. Now I’m baffled as to why it wasn’t used.

Thank you everyone. To address the points raised

  1. When I first set the site up, nobody would have known the company name, so I guess I was not bothered about having that as prominent as it should be. But when I look at other companies,

  2. Yes, I do have a company logo. logo-512x512
    I think I should add the company name on that too. The odd shape is a Smith Chart.

  3. @designzombie I’m not sure how to add columns to the grid - as I said, my knowledge of CSS is pretty slim. The present menu, whilst I admin not too nice, does at least work on mobile devices too. Not so sure that would happen if there was a more rigid grid. I guess I need to find some way of getting a bit of whitespace between the different items, rather than it all be black.

  4. The other site I administer is one for my amateur radio clubhttps://www.dhars.org.uk/ It is similar in structure, but in some ways I guess cleaner, as there’s not so much content crammed in there. The events section on the menu is one per year, rather than every event the club had. (Only really 2015 and 2016 have much content though). But of course this site is less important to me, as I don’t make any money from it, whereas I do from the Kirkby Microwave website. But I can see the need to make my menu less crowded.

  5. As a small company (I’m the only employee), I can’t really justify the cost of a professional web designer.

The other issue would be finding someone. The industry seem to be full of people claiming to be “experts”, but in many cases I think they have less idea than me.

I’m forever getting emails from people that claim to be web developers and SEO specialists, that don’t have a site, and have a gmail address!

Are there any recognized industry qualifications or standards? For example, I’ve a PhD and a chartered engineer. It gives someone some basis for judging me on my technical ability, but I don’t know when it comes to this area - it seems to be full or charlatans! . I get 100’s of emails telling me they are experts. This bunch, https://www.v3dmsolutions.com/ who I think are from India, gave me a report about all the technical errors. It’s funny when you see they have not even got their front page secure, despite having an SSL certificate. They also told me I have lots of HTML errors, but I don’t think that’s true, whereas their site is littered with them. Strangely, they never commented on the ascetics. I suspect they just send the same spam to every company, and hope some bite.

  1. I might well give WordPress a go myself, and forget the hand-coded HTML. I don’t have WordPress on the web server (Debian Linux system), but I don’t suppose installing it is hard. I have a pretty good knowledge of Unix.

  2. @Just-B Yes, I agree, a good copy editor would be useful. I’ll see if I can convince someone who retired from that as a job, to do some work for me. He has a good technical knowledge of this area.

I’m not sure how well it would work with someone without some electronics engineering background. I have a good friend, who is unemployed, and good at English. I don’t know if she would be much help, but I think it would be impossible to get her to take any money, and I’d feel guilty about that.

Dave

It’s not difficult to install WordPress on a Linux system. You’ll need Apache, php and a MySql database, but given your background that shouldn’t be difficult to set up. Once WordPress is installed, it’s also easy to install a template into the system, and there are thousands of templates available at reasonable prices.

There’s a learning curve in how to use a CMS, like WordPress, Joomla or Drupal, but that learning curve will be easier than mastering HTML5 and CSS3. (Hardly anyone uses XHTML any longer, but they’re really quite similar.) Once you’ve grasped the way a CMS works, you won’t need to worry about the design too much — other than whatever formatting needs to be made to the information you add to the individual pages — since it will automatically take on the look of the template itself.

I don’t want to make any generalizations about scams on the internet coming from overseas. There are some very reputable designers and web development companies in places like India (some of them here on this forum). However, there are others that you need to be aware of, and it seems like you’ve learned to identify them. Go the WordPress/commercial template route, and I think you’re probably in a position to do this yourself with a little studying.

You might be surprised at how little it costs if you let a professional designer know exactly what you are looking for and nothing more. You’re time is worth money too. If it takes you days to do what they might be able to do in a few hours, you are saving money.

In this field, there are certificates for learning a skill here and there, and degrees for college. But most of the proof is in the portfolio. If someone doesn’t have examples of the work you’re expecting to have them do, then they probably aren’t a good hire even if they have certificates.

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Hey, I’m not going to beat around the bush. You’re a PhD. You’re an engineer. I would not dream of questioning you regarding your professional knowledge.

But designing an effective website is its own skillset. Yes, it will cost you some money, but running a business costs money. Don’t think of it as an expense. Think of it as an investment in your business.

So you saved a thousand dollars or two thousand dollars doing the website yourself. Is it getting results? Are people finding you via organic searches? Does your site integrate the best SEO practices. Is your site designed to clearly and professionally represent your company? Is your website part of an integral online strategy? And, perhaps most importantly, is your website making the phone ring, generating orders, and creating sales?

My strong suspicion is that a professionally designed website would pay for itself – not just in the ability to convert sales but also in its ability to help position you in the marketplace and build a brand image which is clearly lacking.

Thank you everyone. Whilst getting a pro to do the job could be attractive, I don’t think learning WordPress will be a bad idea. I can use what I learn for non-commercial sites, where it would not be possible to hire anyone.

I will need to look at WooCommerce or similar to integrate with PayPal. I was going to use OpenCart, but if I go the WordPress route, there appears to be better options for a shopping cart.

Thank you designzombie for the tips on finding someone, based on their portfolio. i was in contact with one lot of scammers, who when i asked to see sites they had done, they said it was confidential to customers. I can see some logic in that. In fact, sometimes people ask me who my customers are, but I will not disclose that.

I will probably buy a book or two on WordPress. I know the information can be found on the web, but I often prefer to read a book, rather than look at a computer screen.

Any suggestions for a decent WordPress book or two? You can sort of work out my background.

  • Know basically how websites work.
  • Good unix knowledge
  • Clearly never done an art degree!

Dave

So you saved a thousand dollars or two thousand dollars doing the website yourself. Is it getting results? Are people finding you via organic searches? Does your site integrate the best SEO practices. Is your site designed to clearly and professionally represent your company? Is your website part of an integral online strategy? And, perhaps most importantly, is your website making the phone ring, generating orders, and creating sales?

I’m not disputing that there is a lot of skill in creating a good website, although as Just-B wrote

“I don’t know about your other sites you mentioned, but judging from what you’re selling, I doubt your customers are all that interested in a stylish website.”

The aesthetics are probably not as important for my business as they would be if I were an architect, artist or photographer for example. All the other sites I manage are non-commercial.

One advantage of learning WordPress myself, over paying someone to do one site, is I can make a better attempt at other sites, where paying is just not an option.

I don’t think https://www.kirkbymicrowave.co.uk/ site is too bad from an SEO point. Due to the very specialized nature of what I design, manufacture and sell, I tend to be quite near the top of Google for the keywords I want, such as

  • VNA calibration kit
  • SMA calibration kit
  • vector network analyzer calibration kit.

I’m usually in the top 2-3 on Google. This may not be so for customers outside the UK though, as I have a .co.uk domain, and the site is hosted in the UK. With hindsight, I wish i’d got a .com domain, as 95% of my customers are not in the UK.

I bought a couple of books on SEO, to learn a bit about it. I subscribed to https://www.seobility.net/en/ which I was quite impressed with. It picks up things like if the description is too short or too long, or if a header mentions a keyword that’s not in the text.

I just made a few changes to my Kirkby Microwave site, based on some comments here.

  • Added a logo
  • Changed the colours. I took some ideas for colours from Keysight, to whom I am not a serious competitor (they have a multi-billion dollar business, employing over 10,000 people), but i do sell several kits to their customers, who find my kits cheaper than Keysights. I used a gray like they have, which I think looks better than the red and whatever else before. (I can’t post a link, as there’s a restriction on the number of links one can have here of just 2. )
  • Changed the spacing on the menu structure a bit. I have not made any attempt to change the actual text in the menus at this moment, but clearly it is something that needs to be addressed.

I could make those few changes fairly quickly.

Clearly re-working the site in WordPress would not be such a trivial task.

Dave

Out of curiosity, I performed Google and Yahoo searches from here in the US for the terms you listed. Google placed you in the top six for every search. Yahoo placed you in the top ten for each.

If you do go the Wordpress route, be aware that your search engine rankings could take a temporary hit due to the URLs of the individual pages changing. It might be helpful to create .htaccess redirects for those old URLs to their new replacement addresses.

Out of curiosity, I performed Google and Yahoo searches from here in the US for the terms you listed. Google placed you in the top six for every search. Yahoo placed you in the top ten for each.

Only being inside the top 6 or 10 is quite depressing, compared to what I get in the UK, which is the top 2-3 on Google, although I have not checked on Yahoo. My single largest market is the USA.

There are several things that identify the company as being from the UK

  • The fact this is a limited liability company in the UK, means it is listed on the UK government website

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/08914892

  • A .co.uk domain
  • Hosted in the UK
  • Listed on Google Local business pages. Maybe I should consider removing that.
  • The EV SSL certificate identifies the site as being from Great Britain.

I am wondering whether I should consider changing the domain to a .com. It is really something that would screw up business cards, compliment slips, self adhesive labels that are applied to products etc. But maybe long term changing to a .com and hosting in the USA might be sensible.

That said, one of the areas I would like to expand into, is hiring of my quite extensive laboratory facilities. I have done that a few times when UK companies have approached me to ask whether they could use my vector network analyzers, but I never advertised it as a service. Clearly that is something that is far more useful to have in the UK than the USA, as nobody from the USA is going to come to the UK just to use laboratory facilities, but that is such a separate part of the business, it could be on its own domain.

I really have two types of competitors

  • Companies like Anritsu (US), Rohde & Schwarz (Germany) and Keysight (US). These all produce better products, at considerably higher prices. The smallest (Anritsu) has a turnover of 700 million, and both the other two have turnovers in the billions.

  • Small companies from China, who produce similar products, but have no idea what they are doing. They don’t have the technical expertise. In fact one on eBay has copied huge chunks of my eBay listings, word for word.

Dave

I guess I should add, from an SEO point of view, I have only made an real effort to change this in the last week or two. Before that, multiple pages had identical descriptions for example, as I had just copied one file, and not changed the description.

Using https://www.seobility.net/ as a tool to improve the SEO performance.

Tech and Meta: 81% (8% improvement since I started)
Structure: 93% (no change since I started)
Content: 81% (17% improvement since I started.)

Onpage, 85%. I’m guessing that’s just the average of the first 3.

The fact Seobility.net shows a 17% improvement in content, may hopefully reflect in an improvement in the rankings on Google.

I don’t know how much you can trust site that give one a search engine ranking based on just the homepage, but I seem to be able to score better for that than a lot of companies claiming to be SEO specialists.

Dave

Simplify the structure of the displayed. People do not read large texts and an abundance of data. Do more in terms of increasing navigation on your site. This will help with the initial questions.

I learned a lot of useful information from this topic. Can you tell me how to choose the right method to promote your site and where I can learn more about each method of promotion? I recently created my first site and realized that without buying promotion, I can’t earn on it and provide it, and for this you need daily traffic of users on the site. My friend advised me to contact but since I don’t understand this, I would like to ask your advice if you’ve worked with this company or heard about it.

Honestly, I think you are missing the point of using a designer to help. A website is not a choice between technically effective and pretty. Designing a website to be truly effective is all about clear communication and getting the information you need people to know in order for them to want to buy your product as clearly and efficiently as possible.

This is achieved through; typographic hierarchy, image, image and type placement (left-right brain stuff) and many other factors that take years of experience and aptitude to know – as with any other skill or craft.

Of course, a website’s technical foundations have to be solid too, but all too often website design Is tackled from only a practical and technical stand point, with aesthetic considerations (by which, I don’t mean pretty adornment) all but ignored. I am afraid your site seems to fall into this category.

There is little point getting a site to rank in the top three, if once people see it, they walk away. That is the same as investing in a shop in High Street Ken and not bothering to put anything in the window. You may get the footfall (well, not at the moment, perhaps!), but they will probably walk straight past. It would be commercial suicide, as much as dressing the window yourself would be. You need people who know what they are doing to encourage people to walk through the door.

Naturally, the aesthetic of your website should be different to an architect’s, or a photographer’s. Your product and business has its own, unique tone of voice. It is the job of the designer to reflect this and tell your story,

People deliver bad news in a completely different way than they would tell their child a bedtime story. If you mixed the two up, your message would simply not ring home and you’d likely be awake all night with an insomniac toddler. Of course, this is a gross over-simplification, but you can see where I am going.

The other consideration, which others have touched on, is that just learning word press, or SEO, or css, etc, etc is unlikely to ever have the desired result, I could go and learn all there is to know about sheet fabrication and the production of PCBs and it would not mean I could do what you do.

Get your tone of voice right and speak to the people you need to speak to in the way they expect to be spoken to.

I have a client who manufactures radio amplifiers. Initially he came at it from a not too dissimilar, objective, scientific, practical standpoint and employed a similar DIY, kitchen table approach to all his business communication.

In the end, he realised that he wasn’t getting beyond a very narrow, niche audience. He and I put our heads together and determined what it was that is unique about who he is and what he does. His is fairly high-end kit and sits on the cusp of serious amateur and commercial, but it appeared only to be selling into the bedroom amateur market and at the price point, not all that often. Quite simply, he had the wrong tone of voice, so the wrong people were listening. After creating a coherent, consistent brand that extendEd right through all he produced, from leaflets to website, to the graphics on the amps themselves, a couple of years on and he is doing very well.

To that end, I think you need to be thinking about getting your brand image right before even thinking about your website (the site’s aesthetic would, in turn, be driven by the brand identity), It’s all about building your personality, or rather communicating it. You already have a brand. It is who you, what you do, how you do it, but at the moment, you are telling people all about it in a pretty monotone voice. On the upside, you may get the toddler to doze off!

Apologies if this all appears somewhat harsh, but there is little point in sugar-coating, as that would be of no use to you whatsoever. I hope it helps. If not, feel free to ignore it.

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Well said :wink:

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