The other nine commandments for cost-effective websites

We all know about the importance of a professionally presented website.

You might have the best, the cheapest, the most prestigious or the most popular product or service on the block, but it will count for nothing if your website doesn’t speak to the increasingly discerning eye of the website visitor.

Website visitors have been recorded as judging not only the website, but the capabilities of the organisation it represents in only milliseconds.

That’s right – all that toil and trouble of attracting visitors only to have them click off before you can say ‘download’.

So quite clearly, the look of your website is something you need to get right.

But as this blog has discussed before, the appearance of your website is not the be all and end all of the attributes your website needs to possess.

There are some less obvious but equally important and cost-saving attributes that need to be brought into the equation when putting together your website wishlist.

You can preface these commandments with ‘Thou must’….

2. Communicate clearly

A picture may tell a thousand words, but unless it’s supported by concise and persuasive copy, all of your expensive graphics and photography will go to waste.

Despite being impressed by your website’s appearance, website visitors won’t go the next stop unless you speak to them in language they can understand.

3. Perform well technically

Obviously if your website doesn’t work for whatever reason, you won’t get the visitor or the business. Therefore it’s critical that your website is kept in fine fettle from a performance perspective.

4. Build thy relationship

There’s nothing worse in the digital world than going to all the trouble and expense of attracting a ‘prospect’, having them check out your website, and then ride off into the sunset never to be seen again.

So to minimise this, your website needs to have as many ‘hooks’ to start a relationship with your visitor as you can: At least a sign-up to a newsletter or tip, but why not social networking links, resource centres and other incentives?

5. Close the sale

This blog has banged on about this since it was conceived. Your website must ‘close the sale’ as much as the technology will allow. A secure shopping cart integrated with a payment gateway should be top of your list, but if not, booking forms, appointment requests and briefing forms – whatever it takes to get the sales as advanced as it can be without ‘manual intervention’. Or risk your competitor doing it instead.

6. Be topical

A website with a dated story or photograph may as well scream ‘we don’t care about our website or about you’. In an ‘always on’ world, it’s really the digital equivalent of filthy windows and a smoking receptionist. Plenty of reason to reverse out quickly.

7. Be maintainable

A fine art that few get right. Part of the reason for content which isn’t topical is because the website designer has made it damn near impossible to easily add new content without a computer science or graphic art degree. Good web professionals will not only design the site to be updated regularly but provide the training and support you need to do it quickly and easily – without compromising its professional look or performance.

8. Be extensible

The other common crime of web ‘professionals’ – not creating your website in such a way as to be able to add new features and functionality easily and affordably instead of having to fork out thousands for that same privilege. Thousands of smaller businesses have been burnt by this common failing.

9. Be optimised for search engine

Google is either the first or second port of call for those looking for a product or service, the other being Facebook (calls for recommendations). It’s essential that your website is well optimised to attract the robots and spiders that search engines send out to scan your website content and in turn rank it for keyword relevance.

10. Be compatible with portable devices

Have you seen your website on a mobile phone or tablet? If not, you may be in for an unpleasant surprise. Many websites are not well optimised for these portable computers, transforming your showpiece into a shambles. If your website fits that description, it means you miss out on a massive market of mobile and often deep pocketed consumers. It needs to be a priority for rectification.

Not all businesses are equal when it comes to these guidelines. For example, those in highly aesthetic industries like fashion and automotive will need greater emphasis on appearance than most, but that doesn’t mean that the other nine guidelines should be ignored.

Instead, it’s a balance of all factors that will lead to an effective yet affordable web presence.

In addition to being a leading eBusiness educator to the smaller business sector, Craig Reardon is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team, which was established to address the special website and web marketing needs of SMEs in Melbourne and beyond.

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