DESK TO PRESS
The business of web sites
Following is a professional perspective on the vital elements of a web site. If you want to find out even more, click a link to view a site that contains additional detail (all links open in a new window).
Give people a reason to like your site:
- People like to know how long you've been in business, why your business exists, who works with and for your business, and how to contact you.
- Don't forget to display the terms and conditions of doing business with you and the hours you're open for business.
- Even if you don't think you need one, add a privacy statement to your site, telling people exactly what you will do with the information they give you.
- Have a phone number or email address on every page and a link to a more comprehensive contact page.
- Don't rely solely on a form based contact solution. Give your visitors an email link on every page.
- Make sure you answer emails within 24 hours - if not sooner. If your business acts like it doesn't support its own web site, people will quickly forget.
- Don't make people work too hard to give you information.
- Automate as much as you can, but never make it obvious to the person at the other end of the connection. Stick to the personal touch when dealing directly with a person.
- Think about what your site is meant to achieve. Don't just put the same text or image content onto a web site because it's always worked in print. A web site is your chance to expand the content to include as much information as you might normally give a person during a phone call or face to face. Remember the cost of adding 4 pages to a web site cannot be compared with the cost of adding 4 pages to a print run of 10,000.
- Your content must inform and sell. Tell visitors everything they need to know to make a decision.
- Every time someone asks a useful question include the question and the answer on an FAQ page.
- Collect feedback - positive and negative - and reproduce it on the site.
- Write the text so that it uses key words that best engender a sense of interest in and enthusiasm for your products or services. Then add keywords that people might use at search engines. Employ the services of a copywriter if you can't write it yourself.
- Check the spelling of every page. Make sure there are one or two spelling mistakes hidden in tags for search engines to pick up on.
- Unless you're a publisher, don't worry too much about updating your content every day. Add news, client case studies and stories if they're relevant. But spend more effort on fine tuning what is on the site and staying in touch with your clients.
Navigation and design:
- Keep the design simple. Flash generated images, rainbow colours, music, movies and complex navigation systems may look good but they can get in the way of the message of your site.
- Put links in the top and bottom sections of every page and keep them consistent.
- Images as links look great. But if the user cannot work out how to get from one page to the next, or from the base of the page to the top, images as links are a bad choice. Of course, you can use images on the side of a page and a text-based navigation system at the base.
- Make the content readable and legible.
- Make your pages Search Engine friendly.
- If you're using Dreamweaver, FrontPage or any other shrink-wrapped web design software, you may never see the code. Don't assume it will always work properly or be enhanced for maximum download speeds.
- Don't use largely unknown or memory intensive plug-ins.
- Use the most recent stable code. Study the DTD for the correct format of HTML tags.
- Remember not everyone uses the same operating system or the same browser. Test the code before you go live. Check your pages in at least three browsers and on at least two computer platforms.
- Fail gracefully. Use customised error messages that don't leave the visitor wondering what happened.
- A web site does not need to be ecommerce enabled to successfully sell stuff. You can take orders from the site via email, phone or fax.
- If you add ecommerce facilities make sure there's a way out for those who want to send a fax or who don't have a credit card.
- Make sure you tell people the currencies you accept. Give people a link to a currency converter.
- Print advertising works better in the short term for generating interest in a new or updated site. You have a much better chance of getting targeted magazines and newspapers that have an existing readership than you do of getting similar coverage on the web.
- If you have news that's worth hearing send press releases to the media. Make sure you send the right release to the right person.
- If you have news that will only interest a very small market, rent a targeted mailing list and send a letter or newsletter directing people to the full story on your web site.
- Promote your site to search engines. Get listings in directories. Maintain the momentum - relist with search engines regularly.
Employ the right people:
- The best you can do for your online business is to keep doing what you're good at. Outsource everything else.
- By all means have a clear understanding of what you want to achieve, but don't waste time learning HTML.
- Any fool can win an award. Choose web developers who know where your business can go on the web and offline, and who have the experience to back up their claims.
- Don't assume a web development company with nice offices and dozens of bums on seats has a clue about what's good for your online business. A team of two is often much more focused. And you won't have to feel like you're paying for a view of Sydney Harbour.
- Don't do everything at once. Test, get feedback, see what works; and what doesn't. Remember "The Hare and the Tortoise"
- Keep control. Don't delegate the management of your site's directions to people outside your business. Even if you trust them implicitly: they're running their businesses and you are running yours.
[an error occurred while processing this directive]