By Brant McNaughton, Director of Ecce Media.
A website should not be seen as a cost; it should be seen as a tool to add value to your business and provide a return on your investment. Brant McNaughton, Director of Ecce Media explains what makes a great website and suggests some elements that should be considered when designing or updating a website.
A website needs to be easy-to-use and straightforward – people will look elsewhere if they get frustrated trying to navigate a site! The design needs to be clean and uncomplicated and it is essential to make sure that, when a potential customer clicks on a link, they are directed straight to the relevant information they have searched for – not just the home page.
2. A clear purpose for the website
Make sure there are clear objectives. What do you want the website to do for your business? For example, drive more traffic to your showroom, promote your business or sell more products online? It can then be designed to focus on the objectives.
3. Original fresh content
The content needs to be current, original and appealing to the different audiences. The frequency of updates is really dependent on your type of business – some need updates daily whilst others only need them every couple of months. If the site has a ‘news page’, it is important that it is kept up-to-date otherwise it will show the customer that the website is not a priority to the business and generally, things are a bit lax!
4. Visible contact details
Don’t risk losing a sale because someone has given up searching for your contact details. Why not make it really easy and keep the company contact details in the same place on every page?
5. Regular updates
If the site is regularly updated, people are likely to visit it more often, to keep themselves informed on your business. This will create more traffic to the site and increase your credibility with search engines such as Google.
Build in a ‘call to action’ into the site. For example, invite people to join your mailing list, download brochures, follow you on Twitter and be your friend on Facebook.
6. Make it interesting
Increasingly, websites are being built to capture their audience visually. Photography is vital; it needs to be inspirational as this is what is going to sell the products. Featured products are competing with retail showrooms and other online competitors so they need to inspire the customer.
To reinforce this, all information must be relevant. It sounds obvious but if you capture the audience with interesting pictures, you don’t want to lose them because it isn’t supported with relevant information.
7. Visible to the search engines
There is no point investing in a great website if no one can find it. Make sure you’re featured on search engines. There are many tricks and tools to aid this, but essentially you must ensure your website is search engine friendly (SEF). The way the pages are structured can affect this and it is vital to get it right.
8. Check the spelling and grammar
Take time to check the spelling and grammar before going live. Otherwise, this is one easy way of appearing unprofessional.
9. Customer testimonials
Testimonials prove your reliability and quality service. Assuming most comments are positive, it is a good idea to highlight some of these comments on your website or have a link to social media sites where these are shown.
10. Usability and functionality
Do not try to re-invent the navigation of your website. You need to keep it simple. People expect certain things from all websites and changing a well known format, such as clicking on the company logo to return to the home page, could be a risk.
11. Consider social media to interact with your audience
Social media is not relevant to all businesses but it is something that people should consider. Social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, can be a great way of promoting your business and maximising messages.
12. Web standards
Your website needs to work on a host of different systems - MACS, PCs and handheld devices. There is no point in having a website that people cannot access.
Be aware that under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), it states that all websites need to be accessible to blind and disabled users.
Valid coding is equally important to ensure that your website is accessible from all internet browsers and computer operating systems. It should be coded under W3C compliance; this is the easiest way to make sure your coding is compliant.
13. If it’s an e-commerce website?
Ensure clear product information
Make purchasing an item from your website as easy as possible, eliminating as many barriers as you can. Make sure that products are clearly labelled and it is easy to tell what they are and what they do. Purchasers need to know exactly what they are buying, and they won’t waste time trying to find out!
Ensure a safe and secure payment gateway
Remember, when selling online, that the website needs to comply with the Distance Selling Regulations. Payment must be safe and secure both for the retailer and the purchaser.
14. Terms and conditions
Don’t forget to adhere to the rules and regulations. There are lots of terms and standards for selling from a website that must be met as a legal requirement.
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