Eric DeLong’s been working for Manitoba-based Adam Lee Financial for about a year. But you’d never know it if you relied on the company website.
The recent university grad, who earned a near-perfect 3.94 GPA while playing Division 1 hockey at Sacred Heart in Connecticut, still doesn’t appear on the site.
That’s because the site hasn’t been updated in nearly a decade.
Growing up, DeLong heard great things about his parents’ experience with their advisor, Kris Lee of Adam Lee Financial. So once DeLong wrapped up his business degree, he met with Lee and enquired about career opportunities.
“After we sat down I was pretty much hooked,” says DeLong. “I realized I’d have the chance to do meaningful work in an industry that interests me. And I’d have the chance to put my success in my own hands.” After a second meeting, DeLong got the job.
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“It’s been no looking back ever since.”
He represents a generation that thinks a web connection is as vital as a heartbeat. So when Advisor’s Edge announced a search for website makeover candidates, his email hit our inbox faster than a Phil Kessel breakaway.
Many of Adam Lee Financial’s clients, who average around age 50, were established long before websites began playing a role in marketing. The firm’s been in business since 1997.
“My generation relies on the Internet for information,” says DeLong. “As time goes on, our website will have a bigger impact on our ability to market ourselves.”
Kris Lee applauds DeLong’s initiative, and agrees a redesign is long overdue.
Guiding us through the makeover is Cameron Clark, owner of Toronto-based PhantomOwl Digital. He’s polished web presences for big-name brands including Chatelaine, Today’s Parent and women’s clothing line Tribal Sportswear.
Here’s Clark’s take: Adam Lee Financial’s site includes stock images of anonymous, smiling people in boardrooms, which can come across as phony. It’s better to use photos of actual staff members. The home page features one such image, but it’s a low-quality shot. Clark says the team should ask a professional to do a staff photo shoot.
“If you’re going to trust people with your money, you want to see that they in turn have spent the money to do things right. If they took a photo with their iPhone out in front of the office, you may think, ‘They’re cutting corners on this relatively low-cost endeavour. What else are they cutting corners on?’ ”
Clark notes the company logo at the top of the page is where it needs to be. “It’s been scientifically proven that when users come to a webpage, their eyes naturally go to the [top] left-hand corner. So that’s generally where you want to keep your branding.”
Studies also show that after starting in the top-left, visitors’ eye movements tend to trace a pattern resembling the letter F. For this reason, Clark says, the site’s navigation options should run under the logo, in a single, straight line across the top of the page.
Adam Lee’s are stacked vertically in the top-right corner, in a tiny font.
Clark says another style that’s had strong feedback is placing the logo in the top-centre, flanked on both sides by navigation options.
Whichever option you go with, keep it consistent from page to page, he adds. Currently, the top section of Adam Lee’s home page differs from the layout on the site’s other five pages.
The company logo can also be improved. Clark says it isn’t necessary to add a fancy crest or icon, though there’s nothing wrong with doing so.
A font redesign would suffice: “Even though it’s just font, it’s still branding. You can keep it simple, but you want something that looks like a logo.”
Clark notes the “Contact Information” and “Staff” pages are redundant: both have photos and contacts for advisory and administrative staff (except DeLong).
One of the two pages should be replaced with a general contact form, useful for visitors who don’t know who to send queries to.
Clark also suggests:
- Use a white background; black font and photos don’t stand out against background colours, especially grey and brown.
- Use green for any colour trim or content boxes to match his firm’s logo, instead of grey and brown.
- While George Adam and Kris Lee’s photos have roughly similar formats, other staff members are pictured at their desks. All photos should have a consistent style and size.
- Add a little more information to staff bios, including experience and education.
The “About Us” page touches on general aspects of the practice, while “Our Services” lists specifics such as tax, retirement and estate planning, mutual funds, insurance and GICs. Clark suggests combining these pages because they’re really on the same topic.
“The fewer the pages visitors have to work through, the better.”
He also advises adding an explanation for each service and product type. “You don’t want to overdo it. But if this is a new world to site visitors, you want to give them enough to be able to say, ‘Yes, that’s what I’m looking for.’ ”
Five of the website’s six pages have two lines of fine print at the bottom. The “Our Services” page has a daunting 14 lines. In all cases, it’s set against a dark-grey background, making it even more difficult to read. The content is innocuous, but impressions count, and the current format could send the wrong message. “When you see all that fine print,” says Clark, “prospects may think, ‘What am I getting myself into?’ ”
Plus, just above the fine print section on each page, the word “disclaimers” appears in red. It’s a hyperlink that brings the visitor to a separate page. The “Disclaimers” page actually duplicates the grey background fine print, with one difference: it’s much easier on the eyes (though white would be better than light beige).
Clark advises removing the fine print at the bottom of the site’s main pages, with the separate “Disclaimers” page as a stand-in. If compliance says each page needs disclaimers, the font should be larger and the background white. A coloured line can separate it from the other content on the pages.
Calendar and social media
The financial planning calendar is a good idea, says Clark, but it’s incomplete, and confirms no one’s updating the site. Clark notes websites built with WordPress can be equipped with a calendar that’s as easy to update as the one on your phone. For additional content, Kris Lee might add an RESP reminder in September.
Compliance restricts Adam Lee Financial’s social media options. Twitter and Facebook are out, but LinkedIn is acceptable.
Clark suggests each staff member have a LinkedIn profile that links back to the company website. They should also create a company profile that links back to both staff profiles and adamleefinancial.com.
Once they make these improvements, the firm should keep tabs on site traffic. Clark says Google Analytics is the best way to do this. It’s free, and tells you how many visitors your site has, when they arrived, where they came from, and how long they stayed.
Web designer Cameron Clark says the price for a new website depends on how much customization clients want.
Option 1: Built from scratch
Those who want an original design, including custom graphics and functionality, are looking at around $6,000. Clark builds with WordPress, a user-friendly content management platform that allows his clients to make routine updates easily. He says a half-hour phone conversation is almost always enough to explain how it’s done.
Option 2: Templates
The less expensive alternative is to build the site based on one of the thousands of available WordPress templates.
Some of Clark’s clients want to be more involved in the design. So to get a shortlist of templates, he’ll send them to www.themeforest.net to run a search for “responsive WordPress.” They send him several options, which he helps vet.
Other clients want Clark come up with the shortlist. Once they’ve picked one, he tweaks the colour scheme, and adds branding and content. This option costs $700 to $1,000.