Planning Your Web Site
Are You Ready?
Before creating a web site for your business, spend some time determining if you're really ready to open an office or store on the internet.
- Does this medium help your business accomplish it's objectives?
- Are you willing to devote the resources needed to maintain the site over time? (Having as much up-to-date information as possible on your site is important for establishing a polished image. This requires constant maintenance of the site.)
While the internet is opening up new marketing opportunities for businesses large and small, it's still just one of the many marketing tools you might use and it might not be right for your business.
Plan to Succeed
If you decide a web site is right for your business, develop a plan.
- A diagram of the layout of your pages and how they link to one another is an important first step.
- Identify who will maintain the web site and how much time-sensitive material to include.
If you plan to use a web designer to create your html and graphics, the more time you invest in pre-planning, the faster and more effective the designer can be.
Before you select a designer:
- Take the time to review their previous work
- Calculate costs of both the design and the ongoing revision process
- Be prepared to supply ideas of what you want the 'look and feel' of your site to be, existing or new logo theme, graphic ideas, product photos and content, as well as your web site diagram. If you are unsure of what direction to take with your site design, a good designer will assist you with suggestions about a presentation that will best suit your content type.
You're probably aware that your web site will be viewed not only by your customers, but also by many others such as prospects, suppliers, and web community members around the world. Identify your most important audience and focus your message on them. Don't try to please everyone you can't!
Develop a User-Friendly, Appealing Site
Interest the visitor quickly with your home page. It should:
- Display a sharp logo, graphic and/or other caption at the top that invites the reader to stay and conveys the core mission of your business
- Load fairly quickly without large graphics or lengthy text
- Contain details such as your company's mailing or email address somewhere on the page
- Provide quick and logical ways to move to sections of interest within the web site using navigation icons, a side bar with a list of links, a map, etc.
- Offer a returning viewer links to sections that contain updated news
Your homepage should not provide background information such as your company's history or a company "Who's Who" listing. If such information is included, it belongs on another page, perhaps as "About Us".
On all pages, be consistent in the "look and feel" and in navigation methods.
- Give each page a consistent background and set of navigation links or icons.
- Use meaningful key words or icons for these links so the viewer knows what will be found when they select it.
Select graphics and photographs that match the site's purpose.
Use appropriate graphics to communicate the concept of your company, service or product.
When an enlarged graphic or photo might be helpful, give the visitor the option to open it by clicking on a "thumbnail" (a smaller version of the graphic). This reduces the time required for loading the page. This gives the viewer the option of viewing/not viewing an enlarged graphic.
Content must be relevant and current.
Provide information that is clear and interesting to your visitor, with links to additional details if needed.
Consistently update your site and check the content for relevance and accuracy. Hire or assign someone who has the necessary time and skill to maintain your site.
Link to sites outside your site only when serious consideration has been given to how the links would benefit your site. (You may lose your viewer!) If link popularity is your focus, set up exchange links within a section entitled 'Resources' or 'Related Information'. Always set them to open in a new window.
Indicate on the site that inquiries and suggestions are welcome. Offer visitors several ways to respond: email - fax - phone - snail mail.
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