Your website is often the first place consumers encounter your brand and your offerings. The First Moment of Truth (FMOT) that used to occur in store aisles is happening more and more on websites. Is yours doing its job to capture sales, awareness and brand engagement?
The most important thing to understand is that not all websites are created equal, nor should they be. A law firm won’t need all the functionality of an online fulfillment company. But each company will have unique needs that aren’t likely to be met by off-the-shelf websites.
Whether you have a website, are planning to build one or want to upgrade, check your plans against this list of proven dos and don’ts of successful websites.
1. Don’t Go Generic. You should confer with qualified web designers and/or your agency to map out a website to meet your needs. Beware the $500 one-size-fits-all offerings. You’ll probably waste your money, and almost certainly disappoint visitors.
2. Navigation, Navigation, Navigation. The header, footer and sidebars of a site can contain navigation links. Understand why each is important and the opportunities you have for guiding visitors easily from what they want to see to what you want them to see, and ultimately to what you want them to do. Poor navigation has rendered more than a few websites useless.
3. A Clear Call to Action. Amazingly, many sites for even top brands fail to guide visitors to a clear course of action. Do you want them to buy? To interact? To donate? Tell them, and not just once, but on every page. Tell them what (Exp: Take a Tour) and how (Exp: Click Here).
4. Be SEO Friendly. You sometimes hear the term “robust” associated with a website. That refers to the strength of its Search Engine Optimization. If you don’t understand the term, search it online and learn its significance. It will make the difference in whether you come up in viewer searches near the top of the first page or hopelessly lost somewhere on following pages. Most viewers select from the top ten choices on the first page of a search (in Google, Bing, Yahoo or others).
5. Craft your Content. You’re not writing simple ad copy here. The content on each page of your site needs to go beyond informing to encouraging interaction. Sprinkle it with links to other parts of your site and with SEO-,friendly words. Unless you’re an online catalog, you don’t need to give away the whole show. Include enough to entice your visitor enough to inquire for more information, make a call or to take other action.
6. Internal Links. This is a continuation of the above thought, but it’s important enough to deserve its own spot on the list. Internal links within your content not only help visitors jump to more information on a topic, they help immensely with how search engines read your relevance and decide your ranking in the golden top ten.
7. Brand Facing. This is a lesson from Advertising 101. Make sure your brand is depicted online in a manner consistent with how it is seen in all other forms of communication, from billboards to magazine ads to television commercials. The content must speak in the voice of the brand, and all interaction with visitors should reflect that same character. We have seen many websites that have inexplicably forgotten this.
8. Inviting Design. Some websites are just plain ugly. Will that keep visitors from exploring your site? Not necessarily, but it sure won’t help your brand or enhance the user experience. Not all web designers are good graphic designers. Make sure you have the expertise of both.
9. Customer Interaction. The online world opens the possibilities for instant consumer action and interaction. This may not be relevant to your company. Then again, maybe it’s something you haven’t thought was relevant. Your website gives you the chance to hear what customers are saying, helping them with their questions and delivering products or information in real time. You can take them on virtual tours, show videos or even let them play games that lead to loyalty to your brand. This is sales muscle you won’t find anywhere else.
10. Consistency of Message. Are you running a promotion on television or in other media? Is your company supporting a cause? Make sure these are communicated on your home page. If your website is not concurrent with your other media, you risk viewers believing it out of date and not returning.
11. Mobile. Is your site mobile specific or mobile responsive? Do you know the difference? Catering to mobile users is hugely important. Understand their needs and how to meet them.
Check your current site against this list or let it guide you in developing or upgrading a new one. Getting it right means getting it to pay you back for years to come.
– From the Brain Trust @ Creative Dimensions