You MUST have your name or company name, phone number, email address, and physical address somewhere on your web site, preferably on your contact information page. A street address is better to give than a Post Office box. If you want people to do business with you, you must provide at least this basic information. You would be amazed at how many people overlook this simple requirement.
You MUST have good content. Content is KING! Content is the reason people come to your web site in the first place.
What is content? If you are selling information, then your written material or data is probably your content. You may be able to offer this in simple text (perhaps with a search engine), or from an organized searchable database of your information.
If you are selling images, video, audio, or computer applications then this is your content. Make it easy to find, easy to use, and the best you have to offer.
Don’t hold back, put your best information on your web site. If your content is getting old and stale, be sure to refresh it with something new and different. Content is the single most important aspect of the overall value and quality of your web site.
You MUST have a good navigation system on your web site. Simple text-based links are normally the fastest and quickest way to navigate. Image maps, when not too big, work well too. However, remember that most web surfers are unimpressed with whiz-bang complex navigation schemes, elaborate graphics, and layers of gateway pages to wade through to get to what they want. Keep it refreshingly simple, and easy to use.
You MUST have a quick loading home page. Your home page should have no more than 60 – 80k in graphics, and must come up quickly for the web surfer. If you have tons of fancy graphics or other bandwidth-intensive content, put them on another page in your site. Additionally, you must be extremely careful when using audio, video, Java, Java Script, Shockwave, and any other browser plug in. Realize that people who cannot manage the technology may have trouble viewing your web site.
You MUST provide an easy way for people to contact you while still online. Although a simple email link works well, we’ve found that short on-line forms can generate almost twice the response! It may well be in part because people like to click on buttons, drop down boxes, etc. Whatever you do, make it easy for people to inquire about your services, while they are still online.
You MUST have a site promotion strategy, if you want people to visit it. This may be the single most important thing you can do! Don’t believe for a minute that “if you build it, they will come.”
Internet search engines are the best way to boost traffic to your site. Second best are links from related web sites. Even banner ads and ads in email newsletters can produce good results. Believe it or not, there is no magic formula for getting traffic to your web site. The best approach is one that uses several different methods to build traffic to your own site. Try to involve several different people in your organization to help promote your site, in different ways.
As a general rule, we’ve found that it is better to promote a web site on the Internet itself, rather that other media (print, TV, radio, etc.) If you need to generate brand recognition, then print works fine. But the best way to drive traffic to your web site is on the Internet itself (it is much more direct).
You MUST have a web site that is legible and works on all systems. Your site must work with all web browsers and all screen resolutions. Don’t design your site on a huge monitor at high resolution set, only to discover it looks funny and is almost impossible to read on a small monitor at low resolution.
Additionally, be very careful when using offbeat fonts, sizes, colors, contrasts, and combinations. If you want to do business on your web site, make it easy to do so. Also, if you want to sell, it may be best if your site looks a little on the conservative side (trustworthy), rather than leading edge (here today, gone tomorrow).
You MUST have a way to ask your web site visitors for their email address, in one way or another. This provides you with the opportunity to resell them later, by sending them quality, informative helpful email at a later date as a follow-up. There is nothing immoral or unethical about this, as long as it is done responsibly and in good faith.
You MUST have an offer on your web site that your visitors simply can’t refuse ….. such as FREE!
You MUST have focus. Is your web site trying to be all things to all people? This may have worked a few years ago, but not anymore. There are just too many web sites out there. You must find your specialty, niche, or targeted area, and become the resource for that area. Focus all efforts on servicing that one targeted area, and your web site will be much more effective.
You MUST offer a secure server to encrypt customer credit card information, for their safety and confidence in your organization. Money spent on this additional capability should be offset by an increase in orders as a result.
You MUST make it easy for the customer to buy from you with clear item numbers and prices, sales tax and shipping information, etc. Many shopping cart programs solve these potential obstacles effectively.
The above was excerpted from a Net Atlantic presentation about web design and development topics delivered to the Annual Conference of the New England Telemessaging Association.