When you’re building a web site, it takes more than $5 a month and a few mouse clicks.
Sure you CAN build a web site like this, creating a web site that will be used as a tool to grow your business it’s going to take a lot more.
And here’s 10 things you MUST do.
- Focus on the customer
- Have a plan
- Easy to remember name
- Easy navigation
- Easy customer contact
- Fresh content
- Be found
- Be simple – KIS
Focus on the customer
It’s so easy to get caught up in the excitement of building your web site that you FORGET ABOUT YOUR CUSTOMERS. However, as you’re building your web site keep them in the fore front of your mind. Focus on the audience that will be using your web site. If it’s an intranet for internal corporate use, then your “customers” are going to be the employees and/or business partners using the web site. If it’s a public web site for your businesses customers then ensure that their needs are at the top of your priority list.
As children, you probably learned about the “me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me” song. No one, weather with toys or business likes to be around a “me” centered person. However, those who share, who give, who look out for the needs of others will always be in high demand.
A client who owned a limousine company, came to me one day and wanted a web site for his business. After talking for a few days, he brought me several photographs of his limousine that he wanted on the front page of his web site.
He was not customer focused but only thinking of his pride and joy his limousine. I suggested that instead of filling the first page of this web site with a picture of his limousine he first consider the most important things customers want when their contact him for service. Is there a car available? How much does it cost to go from point a to point b? How long will it take? And etc.
Build a web site focused on your customers and you can only succeed. Build a web site focused on yourself and you’ll fail.
One thing I did in the beginning stages of smallbiztechnology.com’s development was to post the following, in fairly large type: “Do you like or hate this web site”. Guess what, over the months I got dozens, and dozens of opinions on how I could make my web site much better – and what I had been doing right.
Tip: Web site traffic analysis tool. I use Hitbox.com and AWStats (provided by my web host) to analyze the traffic coming to smallbiztechnology.com . I can see how many visitors have been to my web site. What web sits referred them. What type of web browser they use. And a lot more information. With this information in hand I can tailor my web site to my visitors and make better decisions on smallbiztechnology.com’s development.
Have a plan
Building a web site, is no different than going on a journey. You’re starting somewhere and you want to get somewhere. The only way you are going to get there is with a plan – or road map.
Before you even put the first dot in dot-com sit down and think. Ask yourself:
Why do I want a web site
What is it going to accomplish
What is the benefit to my business and customers
Easy to remember name
How many times have you heard a radio advertisement, or seen a television advertisement for a web site with a hard to remember name.
In my bi-monthly seminars at SCORE I drive home to my audience the importance of having an easy to remember name.
One huge no-no. DO NOT use hyphens in your web site name, they are too hard to remember to put them in and when saying them to people or even in an add they get in the way of saying a simple name.
Another web site name no, no. Let say you’re business is Fuddleston Fisherie. If you’re business is not a house hold name, or even if it is a household, make sure your web site is not fuddlestonfisherie.com !
It’s much easier to remember qualityfish.com or something like that than a web site with your name sake – if it’s one like Fuddleston Fisherie.
One suggestion you might wish to consider is having two web site names. One can be your long and hard to spell name sake or corporate name and one can be a much simpler version.
Both web site addresses can point to the same web site, so you won’t have to updated two different web sits.
Sometimes you visit a web site and it makes you sea sick. You regret going to the site. You get so confused your head starts pounding.
Is your site like this?
Do you make it easy for users of your web site to find the information they need? Do you make it easy for them to find the information YOU want them to find?
I’ve been to web sites, where the “buy” button is almost hidden. Think of going to a physical retail store and the cash register is hidden!
Remember you’re web site is only one of many others selling the same things. Whether you’re selling goods or services – your competition is only a mouse click away.
When people visit your web site make sure they can clearly and very easily find the information they need. You don’t want to be too simplistic and have only two web links per page. But you don’t want to be overly complex and make force your web site visitors to use a map just to navigate your web site.
Sure, every user is not going to instantly find everything they need on your web site and that’s where a good search engine for your web site, and web site directory come into play. But do not lean on these tools, as a crutch or excuse for poor web site design!
If you have a very simple web site with only a few pages, there’s no excuse that all of the information you have should be easily accessible. If you have thousands and thousands of pages of information, your goal should be to categorize the information in a logical layout, provide top level navigation to the main sections of your site, and if needed use sub-sections. Then supplement this with a good search engine and web site directory.
If you are going to promote your web site as a news site, or portal of knowledge then make sure your web is informative.
Remember those mornings when you crave for a bowl of cereal? My favorite is Wheat Chex. You reach for the cereal, pour it in the bowl – only to have 3 pieces of cereal come out!
It’s disappointing. It’s frustrating. It leaves a bad taste in your mouth.
Building an information rich web site takes a lot of time and energy. But the rewards can be immense. Over time you’ll find that your web site (and your company) will become known as a resource. The next logical progression, if you work at it is that a) customers will want to purchase their goods and services from you – you ARE the expert right? Then the press will call you asking you for your insight and opinion on various topics – free press.
A great tool to use for easily updating your web site with journal like information is a blog. A blog is one of the best tools you can use for continuously updated information. Items you post to your web site are automatically tagged with a date, time and the name of the user who posted it. Your blogging tool will also archive your blogs for you automatically. More on this later.
As I tell the audiences at my seminars, you web site only has to be secure as the information it stores.
If you’re web site is going to be storing credit card numbers, personal information, customer lists and etc – you should invest in the security of your web site, commiserate with the value of that data and your business.
Businesses running a $50,000 a year web site, should not go into debt and purchase, a $75,000 per year security solution.
If your web server is connected to your corporate network(s), the security of your web site is even that more important. If a hacker can get access to your web server, it’s only a matter of time before they can find a way through it to a computer on your network. It’s best to ensure your web site is NOT connected to your computer network.
However, YOU are ultimately responsible for your own web sites security. Remember, if you install a script, put up a database or some other web application and it has security holes (even one) there’s nothing your web host or e-commerce provider can do about it.
Easy customer contact
One of the most frustrating experiences in visiting a web site is not being able to communicate with the web site owners (be it sales, customer service, or etc) about a question (or comment) you have.
Successful vendors such as PC Mall, CDW, Amazon.com and many others have clearly labeled “contact points” on their web sites. Some have an 800 number clearly displayed on every page of their web site. Some encourage you to email them or use a web form. But either way – a contact method is provided.
Analyze your own web site – what image are you portraying.
Do you solicit a customer’s business online, only to slap them in the face by not making contact information clearly visible or making it not available at all?
One of the easiest contact methods, is to create a web form that will enable your customers to send you a message via your web site. The next step, which many more businesses fail at – is to respond in a timely fashion to your customers.
I’ve gotten emails from some companies saying, “thanks for your message, we’ll be sure to contact you in 24 – 72 hours”. In this day and age, where your web site is only a click away from a competitor’s, a 24 hour response time is the minimum.
1. Every message that comes in, should be automatically responded to – so the send of the message knows you have received the message. How many times have you heard, from your own friends and colleagues – “I didn’t get your email”. Well sometimes maybe they are lying but sometimes email messages simply don’t get though.
2. The next step is to ensure that someone personally replies to your customer’s message with an answer.
If your inbound communication is not that much, then you can handle the inbound email in a more or less manual fashion. However, as your business grows you should look into a commercial customer support, email / web form, management solution.
Another dimension to online support, is live chat. Companies such as Live Person enable customers to initiate chat sessions, directly from your web site, for instant communication.
Igo.com successfully uses this feature on their web site – hence, I’m a repeat customer. The only caveat about these live chat services, is that businesses like to display that “chat with an operator now” button, but often times I’ve been disappointed to see that there’s a “no operator available” sign after clicking on the button.
No one likes stale bread, cereal or milk – and your web site is not different. When visitors come to your web site, it’s an added bonus when they see fresh information. Show me a web site built in 2001. If that web site has not changed one bit in 2003…I’m not so sure if I want to do business with them. Maybe they, like their web site are “dead” , or close to it.
If your web site is going to display news of any kind or serve as a “portal” it is even more important that the content you display is fresh – ESPECIALLY if you have dates next to the content!
To keep my news section fresh (and informative), I use Blogger.com More about blogging in the following pages.
Just because you have a web site does not mean that anyone but yourself, your web developer and your mother will know about it. Once your web site is built – you’ve got to market it and let the world know about it. YOUR world may be your customers. If you have a service or retail base of existing customers don’t waste money advertising your web site around the world. FIRST market your web site to your current customers and let them know that it’s there and all the things they can do with it. Once that’s done, as necessary, you can then start marketing your web site to new customers and prospects.
Be simple – KIS (Keep It Simple)
Last, but not least, as you build your web site, think with simplicity in mind. Don’t’ try to cram the whole universe and everything about your business into it.