The fundamentals of building a better Web site
Before they walk through your door, they click through your Web site — really!
It’s a fast-paced, high-tech world we work in, and it’s vital for businesses to have an informative, easy-to-navigate site that allows visitors to quickly find what they need. Your customers – or potential customers – are busy, and they’re searching the Web looking for instant answers. If they can’t find what they need on your site, they’ll look elsewhere.
My agency has worked with clients in a variety of industries to design, update and maintain their Web sites. We advise each of our clients to adopt the following rules, which maximize their impact and enhance visitors’ experiences on their site:
• Remember that Web site text should be short and sweet. Visitors don’t want to scroll through pages of text to find the information they need. Less is more, or you’re going to lose them at “Hello.”
• Make sure your site isn’t too cluttered, especially the home page. Too much information, especially if it’s arranged haphazardly, can be overwhelming and turn people away.
• Be sure your company’s basic information – how to contact you, directions to your organization, etc. – is easy to find. And always put your phone number on the home page.
• Your Web site should contain images and language that is consistent to your company’s other marketing materials – such as advertisements, brochures, etc. – to ensure a seamless look and feel.
• Update information on your site regularly to give users a reason to keep coming back. Leverage seasonal opportunities whenever possible. For example, do you have holiday sales or special winter promotions? Also, take into account any issues that are currently affecting your industry and whether you can offer any relevant insight.
• Consider including fun and quirky information that will draw people into your site and encourage them to forward others. For example, the StoreyManseau team has “Fun Stuff” on our site that we often update, and we encourage visitors to share this section with their friends.
Viral marketing, (translation: word-of-mouth marketing) is one of the latest phenomena in marketing. It’s particularly effective when people pass along e-mails or links to Web sites, and is an inexpensive and popular way to create “buzz” about your company’s products or services. The key is to provide information that people want to share.
• Collect e-mail addresses through your site – and also at meetings, trade shows and other business events – so you can easily send out updates, newsletters, coupons or other information. This is an easy and cost-effective way to reach your key demographics. (Just remember when you create an e-newsletter, etc., to always provide an “opt-out” provision in the content.)
Web navigation is critical, and, today, best practices in Web design are being utilized by the top designers. It’s not enough to just post the information. It must be arranged so people can find what they need quickly and easily. There’s a science to the process, and our internal experts advise our clients to:
• Use global navigation at the top of all pages
• Echo the global navigation in the footer
• Use “breadcrumbs” – a list of links to mark where you’ve been in a site – to allow the user to easily back out
• Use local navigation to prevent users from going too deep within the site
• Be consistent – the navigation tools should appear in the same spot – with the same look – throughout the site
• Include a “top of page” link (also called a “jump button”) for any page that extends below screen level
• Provide a link to the home page on all pages, so users can easily return to the start, and so no page becomes a dead-end.
• Include text alternatives for any graphic navigation buttons for accessibility.
Don’t forget the importance of Web site optimization to ensure that your site ranks higher than your competitors’ on the results pages of search engines. In other words, you want your site to be listed at the top of the page in a Google, Ask.com or Yahoo! search when people use your specific keyword phrases (e.g., “Concord, NH marketing firm”.)
If you don’t have the in-house resources to design, build, update and maintain your company’s Web site, hire a firm that can assist you. The right agency can be instrumental in creating a fresh, relevant and memorable Web site and can help you promote it to maximize hits.
Laurie Storey-Manseau owns StoreyManseau, LLC, a Concord-based, full-service marketing firm. She can be reached at 229-0278 or Laurie@StoreyManseau.com.