Steps to Networking – Step 81: Web sites

Written By Rick Frishman Published April 14th, 2010

STEP 81: Web sites

As we suggested in Chapter 5, Your Networking Toolkit, build a dynamic, information-based web site. Fill it with the precise information that you would like the world to know about you, your product or service. Use your Web site to paint a striking picture that will intrigue potential network partners and attract them to you.

In constructing your Web site, be careful because a bad site is often worse than having no Web site. So make your Web site good. Make it better than good, make it great, because a great Web site will make you look good and keep visitors coming back. A site that lacks quality content, that is poorly designed or difficult to navigate, will alienate visitors. Not only won’t they revisit your site, they will complaint about it to others.

In designing your Web site, decide:

• Who constitutes your target audience
• What is the best way to reach them
• What information they will need and

Don’t put your Web site up until it’s well tested and you are absolutely sure that it is:

(1) Easy to use
(2) Informative
(3) Attractive
(4) Reflective of your mission and
(5) Quick to download

1. Easy to use. Visitors are busy and they’re not patient. If your site isn’t easy to navigate, they won’t wait for you to fix the kinks. Instead, they’ll abandon you and go somewhere else. Visitors can also be fickle so make your site easy and intuitive to use. If using your site isn’t totally painless for visitors to use, they will flee in droves and probably never come back.

Before launching your site:

• Test it on friends or family members who are short on computer/Web experience
• Note the problems they encounter
• Assume that others will incur the same problems and that the problems are with your site, not with your visitors
• Don’t accept excuses or explanations from Web designers. Care only that your site is easily navigable by anyone from novices to experts. Be firm, the bottom line is that the site should be easy to use
• Make sure that your site works smoothly with all operating systems and browsers
• Properly fix, don’t just patch, all problems

When your site is up, continually monitor it to be sure that all problems have been cured and that all links work smoothly. Visitors will resent being sent to a site other than they site they wanted. If your links don’t work, visitors won’t return – – – count on it.

2. Informative. Your Web site must be informative and contain the information that visitors want. Design attracts visitors and ease of operation keeps them happy, but content brings them back. Find out beforehand exactly what your target audience wants and build your site to give it to them.

Show visitors who you are, what information you provide and how it can benefit them. Give them strong reasons to deal with you. Describe your business, your business history, your financial data and what you accomplished for your customers/clients. Be completely honest and never exaggerate. Think about the ruined careers that were caused by inflated resumes. Include customer/client testimonials and endorsements.

On your site, display your portfolio, staff biographies, staff photographs, customer/client lists, news, newsletters, games, contests, privacy and security policies and links to other sites. Include product descriptions, product specifications, price lists, photographs, illustrations, audio, video, ordering information, shipping instructions, direct e-mail links for questions, comments or for ordering goods or services.

3. Attractive. A Web site is an electronic show room that the world at large can enter, inspect and critique. It’s also an extension of you and the manner that you choose to project yourself.

Your site should be so attractive that it grabs your visitors’ attention and makes them to respond positively to you, your product or service. It should make them look forward to returning to your site and recommending it to others.

Design – – – a site’s look and feel – – – is the first thing that visitors notice. It’s like your sound bite, your first impression and it’s often what visitors remember most. Visitors react to a site’s look and feel before they explore its content. If the site is attractive, easy to read and use, visitors may continue to explore, but if it’s not, they’ll head for the hills.

Site design reflects how you want to be perceived. It can be classical, traditional, modern, progressive, avant-garde, etc. Bold design featuring unusual colors, color combinations and typefaces can signify a dynamic, aggressive and vigorous approach. However, it can also be disconcerting, visual noise that will turn visitors off before they examine your content. The design of your Web site will influence how visitors react to you, your product or service.

From time to time, vary your site’s look. Add and subtract, make changes. Try to keep your site fresh and exciting. Think of it as a gallery that continually mounts new shows rather than a museum that always displays its permanent collection.

Web design isn’t just about looks. It also controls other essential features including the site’s structure, organization and ease of navigation.

4. Reflective of your mission. The main reason why your Web site exists is to support your mission. It should support and reflect the mission of your business or whatever you’re trying to promote. If the mission of your business is to sell candy, create a mouth-watering site that makes visitors salivate and feel like biting into images on the screen. Clearly describe your candy and make it a snap for visitors to buy online.

5. Quick to download. Even if visitors are just browsing, they hate to waste their time. “The site took too long to download,” is a consistent complaint that Web designer Steve Lillo of Planetnet (www.planetlink.com) hears. According to Steve, slowness is a major turn off.

Successful Web sites download fast. If visitors have to wait, most will go to other sites if they have the option, they might even turn to your competitors. Today, Web sites can be built to download fast and look great so don’t accept lame excuses.

Web designers know how to best use color, optimize and compress images and judiciously incorporate graphics to make your site “lean and mean” and still visually shine. They can write code that tells your browser how the web page looks while taking minimal space and sparingly using downloadable files. Web designers also understand that if you have regular corporate customers, you many not need slow-loading pictures or graphics.

Web designer, Steve Lillo (www.planetlink.com) shared his secrets on how to assure that visitors to your site come back. They are:

• Always tell the truth. State the facts clearly and avoid hype, buzz words and jargon. If you’re stating your opinion, make it crystal clear that you’re merely giving your opinion, not quoting facts.

• Employ appropriate technology to insure that every element of your site is easy to use. Keep in mind that use of the latest technology doesn’t always produce the most effective Web site. Ease of use is especially important with large, complex sites. Make sure all links connect properly.

• Make your site lively and entertaining. Create great content that visitors will look forward to reading. Give advice, the latest news and explain “how-to.” Include anecdotes, jokes, industry gossip, tips, contests, surveys and discussion groups. Award prizes and give discounts on merchandise.

• Keep content updated so that the information you provide is always correct. Remember your Web site is a research tool. Visitors will depend on you for reliable information and won’t use your site if your information isn’t current. Provide information that’s updated regularly such as daily tips or monthly articles.

• Notify people via e-mail about significant news developments, updates to your site and other information that may be of benefit or interest to them. Create a link from the e-mail to your site so those interested can easily access your site.

• Deliver what you promise . . . if you can’t deliver it, don’t promise. As previously stressed, results are ultimately what count and once you get past the glitter, results are what visitors to your site want. If you don’t provide as advertised, you’ll lose credibility and most likely your business.

• Update the look of your Web site so it’s consistent with your other marketing materials. Periodically freshen it by changing colors, type, graphics and layouts.

• Never litter the Web with spam. Don’t host or use services that specialize in circulating spam. The wide distribution they offer is more than offset by the resentment they arouse. Sending spam can also cause you to lose your account, which can result in lost business.

• Provide added value. Find out what information or services you provide that will cause visitors to return to your site and include it. Fill your site with newsletters, industry analysis, calendars of events, industry directories and other interactive services. Create a Web site that visitors will want to return to and recommend.

(Excerpted from NETWORKING MAGIC: Making Connections That Will Change Your Life By Rick Frishman and Jill Lublin With Mark Steisel)


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