My website is standard! What about yours? – I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent online searching for the perfect article for work, general research or even for a university assignment, only to come up frustrated and empty handed. We have all experienced the thrill of uncovering the exact title on Google, the one you had been looking for all along, only to open up to sheer disappointment and absolute nothing. There is nothing worse than seeing a white screen with a Network Error message along with an error code that you have never even heard of. Where did the article go? And even worse, is looking up a company to fulfill a need, only to be directed to a standard ‘under construction’ template, or a site that doesn’t even work.
When you need a service, where do you look? When you need information, where do you go? Most of us head straight to the internet for answers, and as a person whose job it is to manage quality assurance and online strategy, I can definitely tell you that quality is one the most important factors when creating your personal or company website. Your website is your calling card, it’s your business card; it’s the ultimate representation of you, and if it’s lacking, then what does that tell others about you?
Here are some basic guidelines to guide your course, because there is such thing as the wrong answer when it comes to your website.
- Roll out the red carpet
Give your visitors the celebrity treatment every time they stop by. Create your own ‘digital’ red carpet for not just the special somebodies, but everybody. Your welcome page should be innovative, attention grabbing and above all, leave the visitor feeling impressed. But then again, don’t get so caught up in the design that you forget the most important thing, information. Your home page is your welcoming page, so it is not only important to have a great design, it is also important that the visitor gets all the information they were looking for. You should be concise; include content explaining briefly where the visitor has arrived, and be their guide as they prepare to explore.
- I have to go where to get there?
Reviving my experience in an airport for my next point, I remember thinking one time, ‘Why do I have to land in Amsterdam, and hang out for a couple of hours, to get to New York?’ Everybody prefers a direct route, so shouldn’t that apply to your website? It is your job to provide visitors with an easy navigation panel, without making them click all over the place to get to where they want to go. Always be clear with your sections and avoid using repetitive data on different pages. Otherwise they might get lost, and probably won’t even bother to stop and ask for directions, they’ll just go somewhere else.
- It’s a dead end
Blocked due to construction, not loading properly, the page does not exist…Trust me, your clients will not be thinking, ‘It’s ok, I’ll come back later.’ Do you know the probability of their ever coming back? While I don’t have the exact figure, it’s pretty slim to none, so this is a very important factor to consider. Having broken links on your website is one of the biggest deterrents and this is especially true for impatient readers, like me. If I see an error message or a page that won’t load properly, more times than not, I will be skipping over to the next website. Call me impatient, or call me cruel, but I do not have the time to figure out why the error has occurred, and quite frankly, it’s not my problem, especially if I can go somewhere else. I need my information displayed fast, and I want it displayed properly, otherwise I’m out of there.
- Keeping up with the Joneses
Stop trying to live like a Jumeirah Jane when you’re on a Karama Kris budget. You may want to drive a Benz, but have you considered your finances, cost of maintenance or the market you are in? When starting off your website, a simple one with a great design can be just as effective, if not more, as an over-the-top and complicated one, and there are many tools out there to help you do it for less. A high-maintenance design will not only cost you more in the onset, but can potentially drain your wallets with upkeep and repair. Simplicity also means your pages will load properly and faster on all browsers. Think about what’s the most important reason behind your website, ask yourself what’s the point, and the answer is exposure. Focus on quality, over quantity, to ensure that information is constantly updated and messages are always clear.
- Hit me with the good stuff
Let us know, who, where, when and what you are. Nothing’s more disappointing then hearing that a company is giving away free coupons, to only find out they are based in Japan. Clients need to easily find contact information, along with the country; they should also leave your site clearly knowing what exactly you can do for them, and all the ways you will do it. Apart from having a good contact page, you should always provide your visitors with valuable content. It’s a good idea to have a News page to keeping visitors updated with your progress. Setting up a company blog is also a great step towards increasing your social engagement with visitors. Linking to Facebook and/or Twitter is also another stride in this direction. Starting interesting discussions and asking good questions is a great way to grab online attention and generate traffic. I will be discussing this in more detail with later posts, along with how to handle negative feedback. While everything online is not always black and white. There are some basic steps that you can follow to create a great website of your very own. Taking the time and effort from the start to implement an effective website can turn into a successful marketing tool to boost your business.
Let me know any questions and the problems you are facing and I would be happy to help. Have you launched a website that you can be proud to put your name on?