Is your website adding to your business’s bottom line? An effective online presence should add credibility to your organization, provide useful information, and ultimately help convert visitors into satisfied customers.
But your website has to be good to be effective. Users have been trained by the high-quality sites of big businesses to expect the best from the Web—and that’s how your site will be judged.
Elements of a good web presence:
- Giving visitors what they want. Remember, people come to your site looking for something. Put yourself in their shoes, and make sure your site provides what they need.
- Clear, consistent navigation. Author, web designer, and usability analyst Vincent Flanders runs a website that highlights a different poorly designed site every day. Frequently, the problems are what he calls “mystery meat” navigation. (Navigational elements that only reveal where you’re going to go if you mouse over them.) Visitors to your website shouldn’t have to guess how to get from one place to the next, so be sure that your navigation is clear, visible, and logical.
- Good content! Good content! Good content! Consider this: every day, seven million new documents are published to the Web, where there are already more than 550 billion. We live in an information overloaded world, and the key to cutting through the clutter is to provide the content that visitors to your site want.
- Well-written copy. If you’re not an excellent wordsmith, hire a copywriter, preferably one with experience in writing for the web, because it’s different than writing for print. (And please, please, please use spell-check; misspelled words on your site make you look sloppy.)
- Brand-appropriate imagery. Clip art and do-it-yourself photos generally make your site look homemade. Unless that’s the image you’re trying to project, use high-quality professional images instead. There are a number of places online to purchase relatively inexpensive stock photos that will give your site a more polished image.
- Robust functionality. Any back-end functionality (e.g., contact forms, shopping carts, calendars) has to work, and it has to work all the time. Nothing can wipe out a visitor’s confidence like finding something on your site that doesn’t function.
- Bells and whistles are for bicycles. Long flash intros, embedded music, and other such design elements should be used judiciously. Your website should be a means of enhancing your business, not a showcase for your designer’s creativity.
- Keep it fresh. The key to bringing visitors back to your site is updating it regularly. A good content management system can allow even business owners with limited technological abilities to modify content, images, and more.
- Don’t think that your website is your marketing strategy. Vincent Flanders also notes that this is one of the biggest mistakes in web design. Unless you’re an online merchant, your website should be part of a larger overall plan for marketing your business.
Your website is your business’s face to the online world. Your customers (and prospective customers) have thousands of other choices online, so your site has to draw them in and give them what they need.
by Rob Croll
President, Marlannah Group Internet Marketing