Small Business Web Design That Will Knock Out The Competition

So you have an excellent product or service. You know how to sell it and increase sales by traditional methods – word-of-mouth & direct mail to name two. Now which of following is you:-

  • You know that you should be using the internet to grow your business but you are not sure how. You know that if you don’t your competitors are going to get an upper hand. Or …
  • You are convinced that the internet is total waste of time as it has already burnt a whole in your budget and wasted a lot of your time. Your internet presence is an embarrassment to your company and detracts rather than adds to the value of your products or services. You want to get rid of it but you know you can’t. You don’t know what to do. Or…
  • You have a web site that attracts potential customers that you would not otherwise had access to, a good proportion of them become your customers and repeatedly buy from you. You measure results & know how effective your marketing budget is and you are able to confidently spend more on marketing that works.

If the third description fits you – Congratulations. You will Knock Out The Competition With A Web site To Die For! If its one of the first two descriptions that fit then you need to do something about it.

Web site Objectives

Your web site is just one tool in the toolbox of your company that is used to market & sell your product & services. That is, a web site MUST sell. All sales & marketing processes have two simple steps and web sites are no different. For web sites those two steps are:-

  • Visitors from your target audience arriving at your web site, i.e. a steady stream of qualified leads.
  • Conversion of your visitors into customers – and the web site may only be part of that process.

Miss out either of the above and your web site is ineffective. Everything else revolves around these two objectives. Converting interest into action is the only way you turn a marketing budget into real sales.

Business not Technology

Too often, you will hear web companies preach to you about virtues of each of these areas but as a business owner what you need to know which of these areas should receive your attention and budget to achieve your business objective of getting qualified prospects and converting them into customers. There are no hard and fast rules but one component outweighs all others. And that is content. Good content will have the most effect on both the search engines and you human visitors.

Content is King

Copy writing, is probably the most important item on your web site. It is said that Content is King and it is absolutely true. Why, you have to ask, do so many companies, pay thousands to develop a web site with smart flash animations and graphics and then write the content themselves then? It can only be that they have not grasped the importance of the words on their web site. After all it’s the words that people read, it’s the words that call people to action, it’s the words that sell. The rest helps, but a site with poor words is as bad as a site with no words and that is just unheard of.

There is a plethora of “top ten’s” about building a good web site and there are two themes that run through them all and one of them is that Content is King. Search Engine Optimization Experts may well be able to rewrite parts of your web site to appear attractive to the search engines, appear on the first page of Goggle and get you more visitors. But the resultant text & layout is so unfriendly to the human reader that they are immediately turned off and hit the back button. Content is a double-edged sword because it is used by the search engines to provide search results and the very same content must compel the human visitor in to action.

Let Your Prospects Get To Know You

Earlier I mentioned that two themes run through web site “top ten’s”. The second theme is to develop a long-term relationship with your potential customer. The web is an inherently distrustful medium and you have got to instill confidence into your potential customer that you are a real personable organization worth doing business with. None of this is rocket science but it is so often not done. Some ways of doing it are :-

  • Testimonials from previous clients
  • Independent Product or Service Reviews
  • Awards
  • Case studies
  • Worthwhile original content

Once the initial confidence is built up you can focus on building a long-term relationship with your new prospect. Again there are many ways to do this where the aim is keep in constant contact with your prospect. Easy and growing in popularity are:

  • Regular Electronic Newsletters
  • Free Reports
  • Free mini-Courses

Once produced they cost nothing to keep sending to your prospects and the technology is in place to allow you to do this with minimal time involvement from yourself.

Foundations

A web site is too often seen as a product, something delivered at a point in time. It is true that there is a point in time when the web site goes live but this is very short-sighted to see it this way. And you can be sure you will never wipe out the competition this way. Beating the competition is a long-term strategy . It takes time and it takes a process that starts way before any discussion about the technology takes place.

Conclusion

You need someone to understand your business, take you through a proven process, talk business not technology and then develop a solution to match. Your business needs to attract the attention of its target market (niche) and then convert them to customers. How do you do that? Be personal, develop a relationship, show them you are real and can be trusted and are worth getting to know. Time is precious and your audience is thinking “Are you worth giving up my time for?”.

Once done, its just a matter of time before they buy. If they are the right audience then time is the only variable.

So the word web site is insufficient. The phrase Internet Marketing Solution is much better. Don’t buy a web site it will cost you. Invest in an Internet Marketing Solution it will reward you. After all, that is your objective to market your product & services on the internet. And you want a solution that provides everything – the core web site design & development, good graphics, copy writing, search engine optimisation, pay-per-click, and Email marketing.

© Rugged Rhino 2005

The Lack of Basic SEO Components in Many Small Business Web sites

I am constantly surprised by the general lack of search engine optimization that I see on many small and even medium sized business Web sites. The best example is when I find a business Web site with “Home” or “Untitled” in the title bar of their page.

I could easily give you the addresses of company Web sites as examples, but I feel that would be unprofessional. So, to try and explain it better, I did a few searches on Google using the term “Home” and “Untitled” and the results were interesting.

“Home” resulted in 3.7 billion Web sites (this is a little misleading though because many optimized websites will still use the word “Home” in their main page along with their targeted keywords). The term “Untitled” returned approximately 94.2 million websites.

If you jump back just a few pages in the “Untitled” Google results to overlook the sites that are intentionally using the term “Untitled” you will begin to see what I mean. Side note: You will also see many of the results are .pdf documents that ironically, even fewer people realize .pdf files can be optimized.

You may be asking “So what?” or “Why?”. The answers are pretty simple; many people will still use programs such as FrontPage which automatically inputs these terms into the title bar (Sadly, I have even found Web design companies with these problems on their sites).

Since the individual is not an expert or experienced in Web design and SEO they don’t realize the importance of keyword research and keyword insertion in the title bar. Title bars are an important part of the search engine optimization recipe that many business owners miss. They may have their spouse, child, or family friend who knows how to use a program like FrontPage or Dreamweaver design their Web site. This is a common mistake that has been reduced over time, but is still obviously present.

Your company Web site can be one of your best sales tools and must also be considered a storefront. Some businesses have many more visitors to their Web site than their actual place of business. A well designed and professional looking Web site can mean the difference between procuring the sale and losing the business to your competitor. I would advise any business owner that is serious about their business to avoid trying to save a few bucks by designing the site themselves or having a friend/family member create the site. This decision could cost them significantly more in the long run. Many organizations that don’t understand this obvious business decision will likely be left in the dust by their competitors in the near future.

A strong marketing plan for your company should have more than a Web site included, it should have a Web strategy. Effective Web design is a business cost that is worth its weight in gold.

The Pillars Behind An Accessible Creative Business Web Site Design

User friendliness, good look & feel and fast & easy communications are some of the features of any successful and cheap website design to target the prospects.

Only pretty images would not satisfy their quests. A site that is not visually appealing can drive a user away before he completes his task. Certain other things are also necessary here to make the website usable.

Creative Design, Usability, Accessibility and some Basic Browser Design guidelines are of great importance to decide the fate of any website to look visually appealing and stunning as well.

Creative website design:

The design of any visually appealing website is such that the prospects would find the site to be interesting to stay long in the website and get the required info perfectly. Provided, the website has to be easy to read and easy to navigate also.

Just by following some basic design standards this creative standard can be established easily.

Colors: The true cross-platform color palette is 216 colors.

Fonts: Just try using the common user fonts so that he site would open in any computer. In this regard, it is necessary to point that some usual fonts can make this happen. Times New Roman, Arial, and Helvetica are the most commonly used fonts. These fonts are easy to read on a computer screen.

Screen Resolutions: a resolution of 1024×768 is the most prevalent in the web design industry. The second most common is 800×600 designs. It is wise to make a liquid layout that fits automatically in any computer without any break-up of images and info. Rigid layout, in this case, would obviously upset a user who is seeing a 1024×768 layout in his 800×600 compatible screen. Which resolution used must be carefully considered.

Images: Nearly every website uses images. Images are of great use for selling products and for displaying company branding. Unnecessary use of images here would have no purpose at all, but those are used to please the viewers. This would unnecessarily make the page size bigger. Using ALT tags with images for accessibility are of high note.

Browser Compatibility

There is more than one browser that is used on the web. Designing one such site for a specific browser would simply lose the real purpose of the website. It is better to test them all. The most popular are Internet Explorer (5-7), Firefox, Mozilla, Netscape 7/8.

Usability:

“Put usability first. Practice simplicity”.

Jakob Nielsen, usability Design Expert, “Designing Web Usability: The Practice of Simplicity”

Not only for completing the information architecture for a site, but also for the creative design usability of any large or small professional web design matters largely. The users should not face any difficulty in finding what they want actually.

Following are some of the basic rules of usability:

o The same basic style should prevail in all pages on the site.

o Other than having a basic style maintained with rest of the pages, the Home Page should have a different design from the rest of the site.

o The brand (logo) and/or company name must generally be placed in the upper left-hand corner (sometimes it is located elsewhere for the Home Page and is larger).

o Only 20% of a page should be occupied for the navigation, though for home page it is something different. It actually varies from site to site as per the reach of the topics.

o Generally, the top horizontal of the page and the left-hand vertical of the page are two most common locations for navigation.

o Please do not display the same links in the footer as you do in the main level navigation. Footers usually contain links namely, Help, Contact Us, Privacy Policy, Feedback, etc…

o You can have the printer friendly options if the site content displayed is suitable for printing.

o For any site that has a lot of content, consider creating ‘sub sites’. Breaking the site down into sections (similar to chapters in a book) with each section having its own landing page would simply make the site look orderly. Often the users can easily remember what specific info they want to see in which sub site.

o Please use percentages (%) instead of pixels to define widths on table definitions and backgrounds/borders for the sake of Resolution Independent Design. the users screen resolution can get an unaffected display quality using percentage (%). This can be a long process and requires testing the site in different screen resolutions, but it would pay off in the long run.

Accessibility:

Thinking about the disable users as well while making any website is the best option. If it is not for the humanity, then at least for the chance of not missing any such possible prospect that can be disable, the accessible website design issues should be dealt in with care and concern. Those persons use different technologies to browse the web (such as screen readers). Colors, fonts, use of certain development technologies, images; all these things need to be carefully selected for a web site to be accessible.

Also the W3C has defined Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. It is not expected that all the sites should follow that rules, but the web design professionals can at least review them and decide what can be done to make the site accessible.