Put your best foot forward on the Internet. Your customers want your website to be informative, uncluttered and easy to navigate across multiple devices, including smartphones and tablets. These guidelines will help you begin the process of developing your company’s Internet presence with a solid grounding in best practices for site design.
It is very important that each page of your website carries a consistent look and feel. By being consistent, your customers will start to trust and recognize your brand. If your pages look and feel different from page to page, customers will get confused and will not have confidence in your company.
Write content specifically for your website
While using your existing marketing material as the copy for your website may seem like a time-saver, it won’t help you attract new customers. When a person visits your website, typically they are expecting to see the latest information your business has to offer - not the same material they got from the brochure you gave them at the trade show. Copy that works for brochures and other printed materials won’t translate well to website content. Print copy tends to be more formal and corporate, where online readers expect something that feels more like a conversation and clearly presents the information they are looking for.
Keep navigation simple
The people coming to your site are there for one reason. They are looking for information about your company and the products or services you offer. If they have to dig too deep to get to what they’re looking for, they may move on to your competitor’s website. To keep that from happening, make sure you can find all information in no more than three “clicks”.
Put your content “above the fold”
Think of the way your website looks on the screen as being similar to a newspaper. The important information is always at the top, or what is referred to as “above the fold”. By keeping your most important information at the top of the web page (meaning viewers don’t need to scroll down to get to the important information), your visitors will get the information they are looking for quickly and without too much searching. Avoid horizontal (left to right) scrolling completely.
Avoid large files on the page
Too many times, companies try to put a large file on their website. It could be a large graphic that hasn’t been reduced from its original size, or a script that shows the visitor a piece of news. Many times these files slow down the page load times and the visitor is left looking at a blank or partial screen, waiting for the large file to be downloaded to their browser. It’s a good idea to let the visitor decide what information they are interested in and allow them to download it as a choice rather than by forcing it to load on the page. Graphics can be easily minimized with a program like Photoshop so that they don’t take very long to load. This is especially important for users with smartphones, who are increasingly making up a large share of website visitors.
Design with tablets and smartphones in mind
Your customers aren’t just using a browser to navigate your website anymore. They could be using a tablet or a smartphone to view your content. While there are a number of ways to design a website properly for mobile viewers, Google has put together a straightforward guide to the process. Many of the measures they suggest, including decreasing page load times, will also help your search engine optimization efforts.
Search engine optimization
If your website is optimized for search engines, you will start to increase your ranking and climb up in the search engine results in your categories. Depending on how important this is to you, there are many articles and companies available online to help you learn as much as you would like to know about the topic. While sites are now automatically “crawled” by the major search engines, you can also choose to submit them for inclusion in the search engine indexes. Check out this page for tips on how to optimize your content for and submit your website to Google.
Add your website address everywhere
People tend to remember things they see repeatedly. If every invoice, business card, letter, bag, flyer, email and any other material produced by your business has your website address clearly printed on it, eventually people will start to go to your website more and more.
Keep content fresh
It is very important to go back on a regular basis and review your content. Your business grows, changes and has things happen on a regular basis and your website should reflect that as well. Visitors could think that your company no longer exists if the information on your website hasn’t been updated in a long period of time. Remember, your website is an important marketing tool. The freshness of content is also a factor that search engines use in determining how high your site ranks in their results, so it will also help out your search engine optimization efforts to consistently add new content.
Talk to your customers
There are lots of ways to interact with your customers. One of the more effective ways is through an email newsletter that customers can sign up for. It lets them know what is going on with your business and what to look forward to, and it also builds an email marketing list for your company to use in the future. There are various services out there that can help you build, maintain and send a professional newsletter; simply search online for “email newsletter” to find them. You’ll also want to make sure that your social media profiles are linked to and prominently displayed on your website, if you choose to build them. Being on social media such as Facebook and Twitter could reap huge rewards for your company in customer engagement.
Hire a professional website designer
Your company positions itself as an expert in its field. Why not use an expert to create the best Internet presence possible for your company? Setting up and designing a website is a time-intensive process, and usually that time can be better spent building your business. Ask around in your network to get recommendations for a professional web designer that your fellow business owners trust to do a great job.