10 Tips to a Hard Working Website

© Diane M. Aull

You’ve put a lot of hard work into your business. What can you do to insure your website works as hard for your success as you do?

  1. Be sure you know the purpose of your site. Know what your "most desired response" is: that is, what you want your site visitors to accomplish when they visit your site. This goal will drive the design of the site architecture, the page layout, the internal navigation… in short, every aspect of the site depends on what you want the site to do.
  2. Hire a site designer/developer who understands marketing, and allow them to do the job you hired them for. Too many designers get carried away with design-for-design’s-sake and forget the purpose of the design is to create a usable, revenue-generating website. And too many clients fail to take full advantage of their web designer’s skill and experience, and instead try to micromanage their site development project. Either way, the client ends up with a site that doesn’t live up to its potential.
  3. Don’t get carried away with bells and whistles. Cutting edge graphics, snazzy Flash movies, "high concept" design — all these things may potentially have a place on your site (depending on your intended audience). But you should never lose sight of your goal — and don’t let the glitz get in the way of the goal.
  4. Make sure your website and your offline marketing materials are consistent. They don’t have to be identical — in fact, there are good reasons for them to be different in some respects — but they should at least appear to come from the same company, using the same color scheme, logo and general look-and-feel.
  5. Tailor your site architecture to your target visitor. Keep your intended audience in mind at all times, and make sure you present your information in a way that best makes sense to that audience. This is one area where advice from a marketing-savvy designer/developer can be crucial.
  6. Keep usability paramount. Remember author Steve Krug’s web design advice: Don’t Make Me Think. As much as possible, eliminate any friction between your site visitors and your most desired response. The goal is for your site to be so easy to use people just "flow" through to the result you want.
  7. Remember that people don’t read text online the same way they do on paper. While you can use your offline marketing materials as a starting point for developing your web content, you should be prepared to write (or hire a copywriter to write for you) unique web copy that’s been formatted specifically for web display.
  8. Keep Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in mind. Unless you have a fair amount of experience with SEO, you may want to consider hiring a professional SEO or at least consulting with one. Don’t try to develop your site and then tack SEO on as an afterthought. For best results, search optimization should be included in your site design and development from the get-go.
  9. Track your site performance. To do this right, you need more than just a simple hit counter. You can sign up for free for Google Analytics. Just a bit of JavaScript code on each page of your site and you can learn an amazing quantity of information about how people are traversing through and using your site pages.

    One thing to consider is that JavaScript solutions such as Google Analytics will not track visitors who have JavaScript turned off. To track all visitors, you need a true log file analyzer. While there are several powerful (and expensive!) solutions often recommended, I personally use a product by Mach5, FastStats Analyzer, and have been quite pleased with its power, speed and performance and its surprisingly reasonable price. Install this software on your own PC, and use it to analyze traffic for an unlimited number of sites. There’s a free trial so you can try it out without risk. If you do decide to purchase, use the code WaywardGirls for an additional 10% discount.

  10. Don’t be afraid to test changes. Test short copy versus long copy, test different landing page layouts, test differnt headlines, test every aspect of your site architecture, navigation and design. This is one area where good site traffic and conversion analytics will be crucial. When you find something that works well, make that your new "control" and keep testing. There is no such thing as a "finished" website, and there is no such thing as too much testing.

This article may be reproduced on your website or in your e-zine as long as the content is maintained intact and unchanged (including links) and the following paragraph is included in its entirety, including "live" links:

Copyright © Diane M. Aull, an online consultant for small and mid-sized businesses. For more information about her services, visit NineYards.com or BootstrapSEO. For resources and tools for home based workers, visit Torka's Home for Wayward Girls.

For any other intended use, you must contact me in advance. If you do use this article on your website, I'd love to know about it; please send me the URL!

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