Thinking of starting an Internet business? Here are ten basic steps to help you create an effective web site.
1. Start with a Website Plan
Assemble a website development plan that is integrated with your overall marketing processes; the content should be consistent with offline materials, the graphics/images don’t have to be identical with traditional media, but should be consistent with your overall branding, style guide, usage of colors etc.
Think global in your overall site design. The greatest Internet growth is occurring outside North America, so it is essential to build a site that can be accessed easily by people around the world. What issues do you need to look at? Load times are very important (again), develop content that avoids colloquialisms that may not be understood by others who may not speak the same language, you may want to make your site content available in diverse languages, there are a number of emerging applications that will facilitate this process, ensure your e-commerce capabilities can be utilized by all.
2. Choose the Right Web Designer
Hire a web site design firm that understands your market position and one that won’t get “geek crazy” – meaning they are so in love with their own design capabilities, your site gets bogged down with graphics, plug ins, GIF garbage, etc. But, conversely, check your ego at the door when you work with your design firm – I’ve see so many good web site designs get ruined by clients who can’t or won’t listen to what we tell them!
3. Cut the Load Times
Pay attention to “load times” and how long it takes a web site to load. If its more than 12-18 seconds you may experience the “click of death” – the site doesn’t load quickly and the surfer is gone. Of course if your targeting broadband customers who are reaching your site via ISDN or DSL then you can build a site that incorporates multimedia-ready content that may include streaming audio or video, or Shockwave or Flash capabilities – go ahead and let those digital geeks get carried away with cutting edge content!
4. Keep It Simple
Dare I say it, “keep it simple” – make your site easy to move around in, build a menu structure that is consistent with industry standards, local menus (for a page or section) on the left and global menus (overall site navigation) at the top and/or bottom of each page, keep as much information “above the fold” (above the cutoff point at the bottom of a monitor), don’t make people use horizontal scroll bars unless absolutely necessary.
5. Make Your Site Easy to Navigate
Inculcate “digital speed” into your overall site design, your client/customers should be able to get to their desired area of your site within one or two mouse clicks; they will quickly get frustrated if they have to clickthrough multiple menus to find information they are seeking.
6. Create Web-Enabled Content
Develop content that is web-enabled, people don’t read web site content like they do offline media, keep your paragraphs short no more than two to three sentences, build in white space with your content, include links in your pages – don’t try to tell your whole marketing story on your site – get people to call you (hello the telephone still works!), e-mail or fill out a profile form.
7. Make it Permission-Ready
Make your site permission-based marketing ready – I love Seth Godin’s “Permission Marketing” book http://www.permission.com/ and we recommend it to all of our clients – he champions building a long term relationship with a customer by asking their permission to continue to market to them and incorporating value/information in all marcom processes.
8. Optimize for the Search Engines
Search engine optimization today has drastically changed from the SEO of a decade ago. The key to getting search engine traffic is making sure that you put your users first. Make your site as useful as you can to your users. Keep the page optimized — which means making easy for search engine to identify and process your content, and these includes:
- using a sitemap
- taking advantage of rich snippets
- use the meta title as your main headline of what the content is all about
- use the meta description to write compelling blurbs that will make search engine users click on your listing as compared to others
- don’t use any linking strategy that search engines don’t like — which basically leaves you with getting natural links as you can
9. Add Web Analytics
Use web analytics to understand your web visitors — where they come from, what they want, how long they stayed, what content are they looking at, how they engage with your website. A deeper understanding of your visitors can help you tweak your website plan and improve your website to achieve better profitability. You will know what works and what do not with your website.
10. Make It Easy for Users to Share Your Content
You do not only want your visitors to come to you site — you’d want them to engage and like it enough that they’d share your content with their own friends and connections in social media. Social media has proven to be an extremely useful medium for small online entrepreneurs, allowing you to increasing awareness and increase traffic. Make it easy for your visitors to share your content. In fact, encourage them to share your content!
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