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7 Forgotten Rules of Business Web Site Design

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James Byrd

James Byrd
James Byrd is a programmer who has been helping businesses get online since 1996. He combines business knowledge with technical expertise to develop sites that work. Check out his book "Web Business Success: The Logical Guide To Doing Business On The Web" at http://www.logicalebiz.com, or download a free case study at http://www.logicalebiz.com/CLFreeCaseStudy.asp

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Even though millions of words have been written about business web site design, I am always astonished at how many marketing experts and web developers forget that business web sites MUST be designed for profit. Even the experts sometimes assume that all you have to do is take the right technology, add a few gimmicks, and stir in a bit of hype, and your business web site will miraculously make sales.

Unfortunately, they are dead wrong. It simply isn't logical to expect your technology or graphics to close a sale. In fact, assuming that slick design or a state-of-the-art shopping cart are going to "pull" sales is like believing that a beautiful sports car will run without an engine. Yes, it looks nice, but it doesn't get you anywhere!

Instead, you must construct your business web site based on tried and true principles of good old-fashioned salesmanship. I don't mean the sort of pushy salesmanship that leaves many people cold. I mean the type of salesmanship that is considerate of your prospects' needs, and that doesn't make it difficult for them to make a purchase.

Straightforward, honest, intelligent salesmanship is what drives the following 7 forgotten rules of business web site design:

* Design to Sell. The primary goal of your site is to sell someone on purchasing your products or services. If your site doesn't do that, then it is not an effective use of your funds. Make visitors comfortable with the idea of doing business with you. Calm their fears and boost their hopes.

* Identify Your Company: The first thing visitors want to know when they arrive at your home page is who you are and what you do. Your home page should clearly identify your business and describe the products and services you offer. Be concise. You only have a few moments to grab the attention of your visitor and get your point across.

* Explain Your Competitive Advantage: The next thing your visitors want to know is why they should buy from you instead of your competition. Describe the advantages you offer that win customers and bring them back to buy again. A prospect won't know why you are the best unless you tell them.

* Compel Visitors to Buy: Don't make visitors search for a way to buy from you. A business web site should present the opportunity to order right up front, while the rest of the site should reinforce the desire to buy. People like to make purchases from someone they know, so tell them about yourself. Communicate both your personality and your expertise.

* Present a Consistent Look: Use your corporate logo and colors on your site. Colors and logos are an important part of your brand identity and they connect your site with your other marketing materials. Use a consistent framework for your site pages. Put your logo and navigation elements in the same location on every page. This lets your visitors focus on the content, instead of wasting time searching for what they need.

* Provide Answers: Enhance your credibility by anticipating your customers' questions and giving them the answers. Explaining important concepts related to your industry demonstrates your expertise. Informed consumers make better purchasing decisions: better for you, and better for them. Create a "Frequently Asked
Questions" page or a topically organized help page. Remember to explain "why" as well as "what" and "how." Use your customer service and sales staff as a resource for this content. You may save yourself some support calls!

* Keep it simple: Avoid confusion at all costs. Nothing will drive a customer away faster than a confusing site. Planning your site organization in advance is critical to building a coherent visitor experience. Use scripting and graphics sparingly and intentionally. Visitors don't return to a business site because of the pretty pictures; they return for the content.

You need to be aware of these 7 rules even if you aren't the one designing your site. After all, you are the one who knows your business best. You know your customers' needs. So it is your responsibility to guide your site designer and developer.

These 7 forgotten rules of profitable site design may not seem very glamorous. But if you've broken just one of them, it's a sure bet that your business web site probably isn't making as many sales as it should.

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