What makes a successful website? This is a question that has as much complexity as ‘What makes a successful relationship?’ Unlike the latter however, the former is unlikely to require daily of doses of Dr. Phil or Oprah for answers; thank G_d.
The following are some pointers that should help make your site more effective. Starting with the Dont’s:
Don’t assume that just because you have a great business model, all you need to do is present information as a static, inflexible regurgitation of your mission statement, uniqe selling proposition, or an online catalogue. If you thought you had competitors locally, just imagine how many you’re competing with globally.
Start with the basics, such as what sets your company apart from other businesses in your field, and highlight those elements. As a popular advertising adage goes, “State Similarities, Emphasize Differences.” And be prepared to frequently update your site with relevant content including text, visuals, video and sound if relevant. This gives your customers the impression that your site and business is fresh and dynamic, as well as encouraging repeat visits from customers and search engine spiders – both desirable for any website with designs of success.
Don’t assume that visitors to your website have the same impression of it as you do. In other words, if you like it, don’t assume everyone else will. For example, if I thought the same as my neighbour, I’d be eating McDonald’s every other day, wearing spandex and driving a K Car: thankfully, I don’t. It’s critical to engage in feedback to gain an understanding of what elements people like or dislike about their online experience with your website. This can mean something as simple as an online form that allows people to comment on its usability – possibly offering something in return for their input – what they would like to see change, if anything, and how you can improve on their overall experience. Or it may involve something more complex, like a focus group to get feedback and/or having people – other than your spouse – use, navigate and provide feedback on your site; also known as Usability Testing. Regardless of the method, listening to your customers and providing for their needs can only help to make your website more successful.
Don’t copy other sites, especially those of a competitor. In addition to ignoring the obvious legal issues that can ensue, this will only make your business look uninspired and lame. By all means, take a critical look at other sites, ones you frequent or businesses that you know have a successful track record online; just don’t think that replicating their winning formula will automatically translate into success for your site. The web allows you to be unique and present information in engaging and refreshing ways. Take advantage of this.
Now, some of the Do’s:
Do your research. Thousands, if not millions of websites end up in web limbo simply because businesses didn’t understand what they wanted their site to accomplish. So, to prevent this from happening, define the nature of the site. For example, is its purpose to inform, educate, sell, or all of the above? Will it have a social aspect (i.e. Blogs, Forums)? Will it be an extension of your bricks and mortar business? Will you need the ability to update it yourself? It’s best to keep the end in mind when starting your web venture – or adventure. And once you know what you want, be prepared to learn, learn, learn. Your success literally lies in your hands when it comes to the success of your business website, so don’t venture into the unknown without a good roadmap.
Be flexible. If you find your site is not doing well, generating little traffic or few sales, change it. Figuring out what makes your site effective, or ineffective, is crucial. Spending thousands of dollars on the best designer in town doesn’t automatically mean success, or continued success. If your site is not performing, find out why and be prepared to do some surgery.
Be sincere. If you make claims and/or promises on your website – or offline for that matter – keep them. Nothing destroys a business’ credibility faster than a bad customer experience and/or unkept promises. The web can be a very unforgiving place, especially for those that fail to meet customer expectations or worse. Forums and other web communities (see http://www.ripoffreport.com/) are littered with the the ghosts of broken and un-fulfilled promises past and present. So, as the saying goes, “Under Promise and Over Deliver.”
Web Content Writer ~ Toronto, Ontario Canada