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7 Key Secrets of a Successful Website

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Key Success

This is a guest article contributed by Jefferson Hawkins, aimed at those looking for a successful website.

Many successful companies, it seems, can create anything – except an effective website. I am always amazed that so many top professional firms – in manufacturing, industry, engineering, sales, and many other areas – have websites that are poorly designed, hard to navigate, impractical, and impossible for search engines to find. The same managers, who demand high performance, efficient design, practicality, and minimal waste, don’t seem to demand the same things from their website. Here are a few tips:

1. Appearances matter

Brilliant, award-winning design is not the most important thing in a website, but if you fall below a certain standard of design quality, your potential customers won’t take you seriously. If your website looks like it was put together by someone’s nephew in his basement, people will assume you’re a small, unprofessional, fly-by-night operation – no matter how big and successful you really are.

A well-designed website instantly communicates that you are big, stable and successful, and that you care about quality. And even if you are two guys working out of a garage, you can look as big, stable and professional as any competitor. Good design doesn’t cost a lot – it just requires dealing with a designer who knows what they are doing.

2. Content, content, content

Content

Give your potential customers the information they want and need. That requires knowing your customer. Talk to them. Talk to your sales people. Find out what are the essential things your customers need to know. Understand how purchasing decisions are made.

Your home page should establish, right away, who you are, what business you are in, what products or services you provide, and what sets you apart from your competitors. Anyone should be able to glance at your home page and understand all of these things right away. There should be no question as to what you do and the benefit you provide.

And keep the text customer oriented. Talk about their problems, their needs, their concerns, and how you solve them. Forget that company mission statement or the glowing letter from the president. They don’t care. They want to know what can you do for me?

Have reasons for customers to return to your site. Offer such things as product information, specifications and operating manuals, professional tips, recipes, and tutorials. Keep this content ungated (doesn’t require registration). Convert your PDF files to web pages and make the PDF available as a free download at the bottom of the web page. Give your customers and potential customers lots of reasons to return to your site again and again.

Photographs and videos are a great way to show your products and demonstrate them in action.

3. Navigation

Navigation

Face it, your business is complex. You may have an extensive product line, many options, many different types of customers or industries that you serve. Effectively directing the customer and channeling them to the products and services they need is vital. Before you start or re-do your website, work out your navigation in advance. Customers should be able to glance at your home page and see exactly where they need to go.

Consider offering a download of your complete catalog, and making the download button visible on your home page – “above the fold.” Even better, consider making your catalog available as part of the website itself, so customers can search it online.

4. Make sure people can find you

SEO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a big subject. Ideally, you should have an SEO specialist work over your site and make sure that search engines can find it. But even if you can’t afford that right now, there are some simple things you can do to make your site visible.

One of the most common mistakes is to embed key text and information in graphics or Flash animation. Search engines cannot read text that is embedded into pictures. You can test this by attempting to select and copy the text on a website. If you can’t select and copy the text, then search engines can’t read it.

Include in your informational text key words that people normally use when searching for your type of product or service. Use the most obvious ones, and any common variations.

Take the time to learn and use title, description and keyword metatags. Or hire someone to handle these SEO basics for you.

5. Keep it timely

There is nothing worse than an out-of-date website to communicate to your customers that you don’t care. Outdated offers, announcements for last year’s trade shows, out-of-date staff lists – it all detracts from your image as an efficient company that will provide great service. Make sure your website has a user-friendly content management system so you can update frequently and easily.

6. Capture and care for customer leads

Not everyone who visits your website is ready to buy. Provide reasons for them to contact you and give you their name and e-mail. Include contact forms and “get a free estimate” forms. Offer a newsletter with industry information, product announcements and tips.

Include “calls to action” such as “Call now to order,” “Click here for a free quote,” and “Download our product catalog.” A “live chat” or “live assistance” function can be a great lead generator.

7. Use Social Media

Facebook

Facebook and Twitter are not just for teenage girls any more. In fact, more and more businesses are using these to build an interested online community. Consider starting a blog where you post relevant articles about your industry, your products, new developments, and upcoming events. Providing a forum where your customers can interact with you and other customers and share knowledge helps to build your company’s brand and your positioning as an industry leader.

Post press releases on your website and/or blog, then link to them on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Make sure your website includes “share” buttons so that visitors can easily share your content.

There are many other things you can do to make your website more effective, and truly reflect the quality and professionalism of your products and services. Take the time and care to make it bright, attractive, informative, easy to navigate, and easy to find.

What difficulties have you experienced while navigating various websites?

*Jefferson Hawkins is Creative Director of SkyHawk Studios , a graphic design firm located in Portland, Oregon. More articles by Jefferson Hawkins can be read on the SkyHawk Studios Blog.

Photo credits: Shutterstock (Falko Matte, Ford Prefect, 1000 Words)

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22 JUST™ Creative Comments

  • Wes McDowell Reply

    Great article. I would also add to the 2nd point about content, that it helps to keep it diverse. It really helps to throw in some videos, particularly if they are made in-house. Videos are 50 times more likely to wind up at the top of a google search than a text page.

  • Jenn staz Reply

    It never ceases to amaze me how horrible some companies websites can be. A lot of times I will immediately click the back button on a site if it looks unprofessional or outdated. Difficult to navigate? Forget about it.

    For more creative and pretty business websites: While some design should be innovative, some things are conventional because that’s what makes them useable. I think a lot of times people can forget that on the ground level, looks and functionality matter equally!

  • Web Designer High Wycombe Reply

    Great article thanks so much for sharing! will be coming back daily.

  • Jane Reply

    “Use title, description and keyword metatags”

    Major search engines don’t use the Keyword Metatag anymore. Title and Description are still used, however.

    Otherwise, good article.

  • David Christian-Woodruff Reply

    Following on from Jenn’s post, I have to agree that there is a wealth of poor websites on the net. It just makes you wonder what goes through a client’s mind when agreeing to the final website, not realising much better work could be done for them…
    As a web designer myself, there has always been a fine balance between making a stunning website, or at least one that you’re pleased with, and one that provides the usability and functionality that is needed by the client. I think over time it gets easier to combine the two, but it still requires effort to think it through fully.
    Again though, as the article states, it’s pointless getting the website right if you’re not going to get it out there in the market, hence the SEO and social media campaigns. These are a key tools in ensuring that your website is promoted in the best possible light and that you drive good traffic through to your main pages.

  • adam Reply

    really short & sweet round round up thanks!!

  • Nora Reed Reply

    Informative article, and you know what these secrets not be secret anymore :) I took more attention while reading your article. Good to hear new things from you. Thanks :)

  • Faith Towers Reply

    This was super helpful, thanks for posting an article so rich with information. I especially like the second tip about keeping it customer-oriented – so true.

  • Ahmad Rajab Reply

    Firstly Great Article and I have to say I totally agree with every point. I found it interesting and helpful also which is always good. i believe that having a website with excellent content navigation and good seo is critical.Although apperance is important, there are a lot of websites out there that look really really nice but they don’t have proper seo and as a result cant be found. I think that social media is important but first I think it is necessary to ensure your websiite and onsite optimisation is good before doing any off page optimisation.

  • Morgan & Me Creative Reply

    Great tips for anyone starting out an online business!

  • Maypre Reply

    One of the things we tell our client right of the bat that its all about making sure thatyour product and or service is as easy to find, access and share. Always keep in mind that your website will not do anything for you unless you think about who is going to be using it. It doesn’t end there either you need to be sure that you can be found everywhere. Meaning that should be on Facebook and Twitter and everywhere you can.

  • Eliz-Mari Nel Reply

    Hey there, I just want to congratulate on this great article. I’m a graphic web design & development student and I find this article very useful and this tips will help my very much next year when I’m working and then i can apply all these things. Thanx

  • Logo Blog Reply

    These are really nice tips, n seem that it will really gonna work! i will try apply them on my new site! thanks

  • Flyers Reply

    Great Article and really interesting read. I believe that having consistent and good content is the key because without that there is no need for any of the other tools.

  • Kellie Reply

    I found the section on navigation very interesting. How would we go about offering a download of our clients complete catalog? Is that possible on Magento? And when you mention making your catalog available as part of the website itself do you mean adding a search option or something else? I would love to hear more as we are working to improve our clients site.

  • Caspid Reply

    where is that navigation image (Men’s Gear) from? Love that design.

  • Jacob Cass Reply

    Caspid,
    It is from the Burton website.

  • Logo Design Reply

    Hey Jeff….I must say that you have shortlisted the most critical aspects for making a website successful. However, here I would say “content” plays the most important role in making a website successful.

  • Webdesigntips Reply

    These all secrets are also helpful for Seo as well. thanks for share this article dude.

  • Ginger Jo Barreto Reply

    If you haven’t already written a book, you may want to consider. I’ve only read 2 articles, that are certainly worth the cost of a credited course. I myself have been challenged with presenting my own work on my web. I missed the web classes in college, and am studying and pushing forward on learning it. In 2011, one no longer needs to be able to write code, but have some general ideas on how to prepare the files and upload. The rest is in the knowledge of presentation, linking, and staying abreast on current issues. I’m working on affiliate marketing now, and learning so much about it. Can’t wait to redo my own website in the upcoming week(s) to apply everything I’ve learned online, while sitting on my sofa. The knowledge is at our fingertips. Notify my if you already have a book out or if you write one. Great writer!

  • Liquidators Reply

    As they say Content is King and without it whats the point for seo, social media and web design! Content is essential for any successful website

  • moncha Reply

    hi jacob cass,this is great article. Thanks a lot to upload such a matter.

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