If you haven’t already created a website, your business is in serious danger of falling behind. Once you decide to join the ranks of 21st century businesses, there are a few things you need to be aware of. One of the best ways to ensure that enough time and energy goes into the website is to think of it as a completely different business to your own. Thinking of a website as nothing more than an add-on to your business is a major mistake. You will be competing with approximately 300 million websites online, thousands of which are likely to be in direct competition to yours.
You need to decide from the outset what you want your new website to achieve. There is no point in aimlessly creating a site and hoping for it to ‘succeed’ when you don’t even know what will constitute ‘success’. Do you want it to be an informative site where customers can contact you 24 hours a day? Do you want it to be a small brochure site that gives basic information? Or do you want it to be a pure ecommerce site that is solely designed to directly sell your company’s products? If you are intent on making sales directly from the site, you’ll need to find your target audience. Professional help will probably be needed in this instance. Identifying your target audience will save a fortune on marketing.
Website Site Map
Most people think of XML sitemaps which have links to every page of a website. In actual fact, you should consider creating a visual site map with good old fashioned pen and paper before the design process begins. The beauty of a manual sitemap of this nature is that you can be as complex or as simple as you like. A quick way to create this sitemap is by drawing a box at the top marked ‘home page’ and start from there.
Add more boxes beneath the home page marked ‘FAQ’, ‘contact‘, ‘search’ and ‘about us’. Draw lines directly from these boxes to the home page to indicate that there should be direct links from these pages to your home page. Add any additional web pages beneath the second line and connect these. It is essential that visitors should never have to go beyond three pages to find any content on your site. Otherwise, they will get frustrated and leave. Think about what you want people to do on every page, it could be as simple as to pick up the phone or you may want them to ‘sign up’ or send their details/enquire about a particular service. We call these ‘call to actions’ and every website, especially on the home page, should have a strong call to action.
Once you have the site planned and ready, you need to test it for usability. You will save 10 times more than what you spend on usability testing in the long run. Failure to do this testing could see you discover that the site’s structure doesn’t make sense once it is live. By then, it will be too late as your visitors will see the chaos and immediately leave your site. Be sure to ask friends for their help with the testing. Simply ask them if they can see any usability issues. The majority of the time, a handful of people is all you need in order to find errors in your site planning.
Once your new website is properly planned and live, you should see a marked improvement in sales as long as the site is properly optimised.