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FYI—here at Wordspecs we follow the web trends and bring realistic, current information to the development of our client's sites.

So What Are You Trying To Do With Your Web Site?

Wordspecs would like to share this article excerpted from Web Pro News, that effectively summarizes how you can think about your web site needs and goals.

    So what do you need your web site to do? Simple, you are trying to improve your business. All too often and certainly in the past, companies have created web sites that don't serve the needs of their businesses. True, it may have great graphics and super content, but does it do the job it is supposed to?

    A web site should be part of an overall marketing strategy and should reflect the organization's overall image and culture. Additionally, it should not be created in isolation from the rest of the business.

    Until recently, a web site was a way of showing off. In fact, a certain degree of vanity was attached to a company having a web site. However, the market is maturing. Currently and in the future, web site design will be driven more by the rules of advertising and marketing than technology.

    Think for a second—there are some very sophisticated TV, radio and newspaper ads that attract you to their message and are very memorable. So why is it that so many web sites are so primitive in comparison? Most of us watch TV. Take a dispassionate look at what is memorable about the ads that stick in your mind: a clever message, humor, graphics, sex, or something free. Can you apply these to your site?

    Decide what you are selling

    Do you buy an electric drill because you want an electric drill or because you need to make holes? To put it another way, are you selling the sausage or the sizzle? Think about what it is your customers are actually buying and create the web site to satisfy that need.

    Your home page is like a direct mail leaflet

    Creating a web site is like creating a direct mail leaflet. You have 7-10 seconds to grab your visitors' attention and keep it; otherwise they will get bored and go away. We have all been on web site that load up so slowly that you start losing the will to live, and like a direct mail leaflet, there is no risk or cost to the recipient. If they don't need to invest a lot of time in looking at your initial message in order to decide if they want to see more, then there is more chance of their staying. So spend some time on that initial message.

    Your index page should be clean and simple. Remember, sometimes less is more. Your index page should say who you are, what you do, and what you have to offer the visitor. Give them something that they can buy into immediately; that is, grab their attention. When you have got their attention, then you can direct them to the pages with all the interesting graphics toys and gimmicks. But don't try to overload them with too much detail on the home page.

    Does your web site do this? Probably not as well as it could or will do in the future. You are not going to get it 100% right first time—keep updating it. Talk to your current customers. Find out what they think of your site and ask them what you could do to improve it. Don't be shy or too proud to ask or listen, and perhaps give them an incentive for responding.

    Who is the weakest link?

    How long does the site take to load? What speed connections do your target audience use? Are they all business users with ADSL/ISDN links to the Internet? If that's the case, then lots of graphics are OK. But if you are trying to get to Mom and Pop (silver surfers) using a 14.4K modem in their study somewhere in the boonies with bad telephone lines, then a different approach to design is needed. Always consider the target audience and their environment. Recreate that environment.

    Don't forget: the chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Even if your site is the fastest, your site should be hosted by a reliable company that provides 99% "uptime" so that your audience can see your information quickly.

    What Next?

    So you have spent ages creating a web site that has all the right qualities, looks good, and is quick to load and entices people in. What next?

    Don't disappoint them. Don't put all the effort into the home page and back that with pages and pages of rubbish: broken links, error messages, and, worst of them all, "Under Construction."

    If you are compelled to put "something on the web" before you have finished developing the real site, put up something simple that tells a complete story in itself. How do you do this? Try taking a look at a good quality newspaper. Almost without exception, you can take a newspaper story and edit it upwards from the bottom, chopping off paragraph after paragraph without losing the thread of the story. Your holding site should do this. It shouldn't take too long to do 3 or 4 simple pages that give the basic details of your business.

    If your visitors want to find information, let them have it easily. If you have many things to offer, perhaps consider building a search engine on your site to reduce the time taken to find what they are looking for. Make your navigation easy and intuitive. Try it out on your mom—if she can do it, you're on to a winner.

    Don't make assumptions

    Can you judge your own web site by how you view others? If you are a critical, cynical so-and-so, then maybe. Would you read page after page of closely typed text? I doubt it. If you need to give that info, save it as a downloadable document in Acrobat format. Have a downloads area that people can bookmark as a resource.

    On the other hand, if your site is too superficial and has no benefit to the visitor, will they bother with it? Don't make assumptions on what YOU think people will want to see, give them what they actually want.

    Getting the web word out

    Now you need to let people know about it and how do you do this? With the search engines, of course. Well, almost. Again, who are the target audience and how do you reach them now? Most businesses do not rely on the Internet as their sole source of revenue.

    Your customers will have many different types of interaction with your business, so your web address should appear on every vehicle you own. Display it on every piece of paper, every envelope, even on your shipping cartons, everywhere that someone may interact with your business in its widest sense.

    Consider for a moment that you sell gift items, for example, china and glass. You sell something to a person and ship to them using UPS or Fed-Ex or whoever. How many people are going to look at that box? From the guy who picks it up from you to the guy who delivers it to the customer, it could be a dozen or more for every package.

    They are all consumers, and if you print your web address and a motto line underneath where your Ship to Address is stuck on to the box, then everybody who looks at it will be exposed to your identity. You increase your chances of someone taking a look and maybe buying.

    Some companies don't have on-hold music. Instead, they have a recording of a very nice sounding lady suggesting that I may be able to get information on their web site, "www." They have other context sensitive and regularly changing messages...another opportunity to generate and keep interest.


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