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Top Three Basics Many Websites Miss

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Shannon Kavanaugh
August 16, 2007


Shannon Kavanaugh
Shannon Kavanaugh has written 1 articles for WebKnowHow.
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Go-To-Market Strategies is a resource center for sales and marketing professionals and business leaders. Our tools, templates, and services help companies achieve big aspirations with limited budgets. More articles and resources available at http://www.gtms-inc.com

The company website has become a key component to every organization's marketing infrastructure. It is often the first face to your prospects and as such must constantly be improved upon, added to, and/or modified. Because we frequently design and develop content for websites, we recently asked Abbo Peterson, owner of website evaluation service provider Vista Point Consulting, what three web design guidelines he often sees missed.

While there are a variety of elements to a successful website, including performance, search engine optimization, usability, and visual design, here are some simple guidelines every website should follow—yet many don't:

1. Your home page contains a clear tag line or company description that summarizes the website or your organization's purpose

For websites, the initial look is critical, especially since it only takes a simple click of a Back button to leave your site. In these first few moments, there are lots of questions. Did we find the right place? Does it offer what we need? Does it meet our expectations? Do we want to stay longer?

You can help your website visitors feel more comfortable in seconds by using an effective tag line or company positioning statement—a very short phrase that clearly summarizes the purpose of your website or your organization.

Tips:

  • Be clear and factual—this is not the time to use abstract slogans (i.e. Your complete resource for off-road motorcycling in Washington state)
  • Focus on what you provide and what benefit your customers will get with your product or service (i.e. Improving websites with a new point of view)
  • Use a complete phrase or sentence, rather than a list of words
  • Give the statement a prominent place on your website

2. Your website contains the information commonly expected for the type of site

The heart of a good website is its content. An outstanding website will provide customer-focused content that directly meets the needs of the people who use the site. Those needs are based on the questions they have about the organization and the products or services it provides.

Are you effectively answering your website visitors' questions? The more of their questions you answer, the better they'll feel about your organization, and the more successful your website will ultimately be.

Tips:

  • Expected information may include product descriptions and photographs, service descriptions, prices, benefits, samples of work, event calendar, customer support information, FAQs, organization information, store locations, phone numbers, etc.
  • Possible questions to get you started include: a) How much does it cost; b) Do they offer the product or service I'm looking for; c) What are their hours; d) How are they better than their competitors; e) How long will it take to get the product shipped to me; or f) What is their email address and phone number?

3. The link names throughout your site are clear and descriptive

In one sense, using a website is like a treasure hunt—you follow clues to reach your destination. Your level of confidence in the path you take measures your progress during the adventure. If your current location matches the clues, you remain confident. If it doesn't, you can feel confused and uncomfortable.

On a website, those clues are link names. If they lead to a destination your website visitors expect, they'll feel confident and comfortable. If not, they can feel bewildered, even frustrated.

Tips:

  • Use accurate, descriptive link names. They should describe the link destination well enough so there is no surprise when someone clicks the link and views the resulting page.
  • Avoid link names like "click here" or "here."
  • Links aren't required to be just one or two words. When appropriate, use a phrase, e.g., "How the process works," or "What clients are saying."
  • For links to files, rather than web pages, indicate what type of file in or near the link, e.g., "Annual Report (.pdf)".
  • For email links, make the link text the actual email address. Avoid links named "contact us" that can surprise people by unexpectedly launching an email application.
  • Test your link names by asking, "Is the link destination about ?" (For example: Is the link destination about "available services"? or Is the link destination about "click here"?)

Whether you are planning a new or redesigned site or simply want to learn some ways to improve what you currently have, be sure you have covered these top three basics.


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