Every business when they invest in a website want it to generate business. It needs to play its part in the revenue raising strategy.
The days of building a site to show off a corporate image for the sake of it, are over. Websites instead can be made to work.
Today’s web user is different from 6 years ago, mobile devices have taken over for one, accounting for over 50% of all web browsing activity. Today’s user does not want to wade through a cluttered web site to find the information he or she wants. They want in, do what they want quickly, and out. If the site is too difficult to understand at first glance, a competitior’s website is only the next click on Google.
So there are some basic rules a website cannot escape to be effective, and here are the 10 most crucial:
1. Works on Mobiles too
Back in the stone age (before 2010), when smart phones were fewer and the iPad didnt exist, only a small number of sites were mobile friendly. And they involved having two sites (m.name.com and name.com) which meant content needed to be updated twice (mainly News websites, and journalists loathed it).
However, by 2014 mobile device usage eclipsed desktops. It is all well and good to browse a wide non mobile friendly website on a phone, using its touch screen pinch and pan gestures, but becomes a little tiring compared to convenient scroll only mobile sites. Now we have arrived at the point where any business that does not cater to mobiles is losing potential customers.
Some industries it’s even more pronounced, like restaurants, where over 70% of online users are using phones to look up addresses, menus, make bookings and order takeaway.
Enter new website technology, the “Responsive” website. Only one website which works for both desktops and mobile devices, the site actually re stacks itself to a single column when it detects a phone or two columns on a tablet. The best part is, when you want to change products, prices or copy, there is only one site to update.
In this age when mobile devices are more plentiful than desktops, your website needs to be responsive.
2. Header / Position statement
Great copy in large typography to stand out. Can you define the core of your business in 6,7 or 8 words? Web surfers have short attention spans, you don’t want to force them to search your site to discover what you do. It should be apparent within a few seconds what your core business is. If not, well, nobody wants to read anything online now days, your competitors are only a click away and the potential customer is gone.
3. Stunning images
This can really set a site off. Users love to be wowed. Great images or illustrations is one way to draw users into your site. Try to have your own images. Be careful with stock images, they may cause your site to look like something else and sometimes look a little too generic. The best way is to hire a photographer or professional illustrator. As they say, a custom image or original illustration is worth a hundred stock images.
4. Call to Action
Most sites are a gateway to an action of some sort, to make a sale, provide information or gather contact information. To help this along, we need an obvious prompt, such as a button or a sign up. The button should stand out and labelled with something appropriate like “Lets get started”, “How can we help you?”, “See our packages”, “Buy Now” etc etc..
The call to action prompt needs to be strong and can’t be missed.
5. Simple Navigation
It is important to keep it simple so as to not overwhelm the user. If it is easy for the user to negotiate the menu through your site, the longer they will engage with it. Back in the stone age, menus were several, busy and complicated – to impress users. This didn’t impress…
Consistency of navigation on every page is important to users.
A menu of no more than 5 or 6 items in a fixed position on every page is enough. Of course, in larger sites more pages can be in drop down lists under menu items.
6. About Us page
This is very helpful for small business to have (and less necessary for household names). It tells the visitor who you are and what you do – in more than 6 to 8 words. It can show how the business came into being. It can show pictures of staff, it can include the company’s philosophies and goals. This is the page which gives your brand a little personality
It can be frustrating when in medium to large site and wanting to find a product without an obvious search facility. A basic site search is all that is needed, a magnifying glass icon is enough to identify it. A search tool is vital for repeat users.
8. Contact page
Keep the contact page always accessible from the menu and footer, the key being to make it highly visible. Always have several forms of contact, email, phone, physical address and a contact form – so users can fill out if they choose to. Also a google map showing your bricks and mortar location is a big help to users too.
9. Search Engine Optimisation
Some say the primary reason for a website is to be listed by search engines. I am on Google’s first page therefore I am. A site should be built search optimised, meaning key words for your industry should be sprinkle throughout the site. It’s the reason why many sites have blogs. The more articles about your products the more Google believes its a good site worthy of their higher ranking. One thing to remember, to rank highly in the greater world is difficult, but to rank highly in your local area is much easier. e.g. an Auto repair shop in Kincumber has a better chance of ranking on page 1 with the keywords “Auto Repair Kincumber” than “Auto repair Australia” or just plain “auto repair”.
Site key word performance will need to be monitored if advertising on Google is used. Google by the way, along with Bing/Yahoo offer free trials with vouchers of $100 and $150 respectively. Whether Adwords is successful for you depends on the business, as with any advertising, it needs to kept up for a long period for it to work.
A footer is a straight forward layout of possibly everything on your site, including sitemap, menus, contact information, social network links and even extra links which had no other logical location on the website main. It is a way of displaying large chunks of information without the clutter of design and can be a handy last resort for users if for some reason couldn’t initially find what they wanted, there’s always the footer loaded with all the pages to explore.
There you have it, 10 points for website success. There maybe plenty more “nice to haves” but these ones are the essentials.