MCLELLAN: Build a website users will love
Friday, August 03, 2012 7:00 AM
Less than 20 years ago, many businesses were wondering whether they needed a website. It seemed so far-fetched that any of their customers would ever do anything but show up at their store or pick up the phone to place an order.
How quickly times change. Now, a business isn’t considered legitimate until it has a Web presence. No matter what it is you sell, odds are your prospects are going to visit your website to decide if you’re even in the running.
I’m hard-pressed to think of an industry or business category that doesn’t rely on its website as the main workhorse in its marketing arsenal.
It used to be that you had an opportunity to make the sale when someone walked into your retail location, your salesperson called on the buyer, or you answered your phone. But today, a good portion of the sales process has nothing to do with you actively engaging with potential buyers.
It’s happening on your website, within social networks and with the help of a Google search.
Which makes what you put out on the Web absolutely vital to your business’ success.
All of that being said, most websites stink. They’re badly designed, built for the business’s ego rather than the customer’s utility, and they’re out of date.
Why? I think most businesses think of their website like an ever expanding junk drawer. They just keep tossing more stuff in there and hope that when people rummage through it, they can find what they need.
If you’d like your website to be the effective workhorse you need it to be, consider these best practices:
It should be an experience: Keep in mind that many people will decide whether to do business with you based on their Web visit. Get them interacting with you; give them a quiz, help them find answers to their specific questions or offer them something they might want to share with others.
• Let your company’s personality be a part of the site, both in design and voice.
• Simple navigation matters. Make it intuitive.
• Remember eye flow. Give them plenty of white space and eye rest.
Don’t talk about yourself: Everything should be presented from their perspective, not yours. You might need an outside perspective to help you identify what truly matters to your audience.
• Don’t over-share. Think hors d’oeuvres, not a six-course meal.
• Start at the 101 level. Not every visitor will already be an expert.
• Leave them wanting more so they call or send an email.
• Keep the content fresh.
• Cascade your content. Start with a little and then let them choose to drill down for more if they want it.
Make it easy, no matter the device: Don’t assume everyone is using a 15-inch screen. Within the next couple of years, the majority of Web searches will be conducted on a mobile phone. Check your site on desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones.
• Pay attention to page placement. Your most important content should be higher up.
• Provide more than one way to navigate.
• Use landing pages to help diverse audiences get where they want to go.
Don’t let a mediocre website discourage prospects from becoming customers before they even shake your hand.
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