The following is an overview of 12 necessary steps to take in building your site. The size of your business and the nature/size of your target audience are irrelevant. These provisions hold true, regardless.
1. Plan from the visitor back, not forward from your business
Define the conversion action you want (contact, download, subscription, order) and plan/design everything on site to make it happen.
Define your target audience. Understand their web-search behaviour and anticipate their incoming expectations/needs—then plan and develop your site content and design through the eye of your visitor-prospect.
2. Don’t build your site in isolation
To the visitor, your site is your company. The way it looks, the voice it speaks with, the manner in which it leads the visitor to what they seek—everything about the site personifies you and your business, and should be consistent with your other marketing materials regarding branding, style, use of colour, etc.
3. Work with a savvy web builder
It is essential that whoever handles design/build for your site understands web marketing, takes the time to understand your business, and understands and commits to your marketing objectives for the site.
4. Content rules!
You can design a site that could hang in the Louvre, and optimize it for search engines until traffic pours in… but, if you don’t have great content to greet them, you’ve wasted your money.
Don’t even think of the site design until you have defined and mapped your content and developed your keyword lists. Ideally, you should have 50 – 60% of the textual content (preferably more) ready in first draft form before bringing the web-builders in.
5. Resist the bells and whistles!
No amount of “Hollywood” can compensate for the lack of good site content. Judge everything the designer suggests by a simple yardstick: Does it contribute to the information encounter and your visitor’s experience? If not, toss it! Your budget will thank you.
That said, the key to success is to work with your web builder. The Internet graveyard is filled with sites whose owners wouldn’t listen to expert advice.
6. Build for the average user
The “load time” of a site can determine whether the visitor stays or gives you the “click of death.” If they have to wait much longer than a few seconds for your site to load, they’re gone!
Make sure your web builder designs for visitors who aren’t on a hi-speed connection to the Web. Test your design for all Web browsers, connection speeds, and screen resolutions.
7. Complexity confuses. Simplicity works!
A visitor-friendly site is easy to move around in, with conventional navigation (global menus at the top and bottom of each page… local menus for the page or section on the left). Avoid horizontal scrolling like the plague… and try to keep critical information “scroll-free” (i.e. above the cutoff at the foot of the screen).
8. Point them to where they want to go
Use clear navigation signposts and distinct information areas. An arriving visitor should be no more than a couple of clicks away from the information they need. If they have to drill down through menu after menu to find it, they will click out and go to the next site on the search engine list.
9. Write it right!
People don’t read web copy the way they read an ad or a book. Good Web copywriting anticipates this.
- Short paragraphs.
- Ample “white space” to break up the text.
- Lists bulleted.
- Relevant in-site links included in the text.
- Unless you are selling a product on an e-commerce site, don’t try to say all there is to say. Remember the objective. You want to contact! Ask for it with a promise of more information.
10. Get the big search engines working for you
Without an SEO strategy, you stand little chance of achieving high search rankings and high traffic of targeted prospects. And NO—you can’t buy results with a $99 software program that promises to get you on 1000 search engines.
There are less than 3 dozen gines that matter. Driving results from these mass-use engines is a specialized, careful skill, which does not reside in the typical web design house, and certainly can’t be packaged on a CD.
11. Track visitors’ footprints through your site
Every visitor to your site leaves “digital tracks. Your server log files reveal how visitors access your site and, in most cases, where from. Your web analytics data will tell you where people went on your site, how long they stayed, which pages were most visited, how many repeat visits, and much more.
12. If the world is your market, internationalize your site
The greatest growth in Internet usage is taking place outside North America. If you want to communicate to the world, consider making your site’s content and e-commerce programs accessible in other languages.
Check your English-language copy to make sure it hasn’t used phrases or jargon that will obscure the meaning to non-English speakers. Also, remember the point made earlier regarding load times.
There’s plenty more to say and understand about each of the above essential points; but, if you check the boxes as you plan your new or rebuilt Website, you’ll avoid the Big Mistakes that your competitors are likely still making.
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