Tech Tips: Eight steps to a better website
Special to the Daily
If you’re thinking of building a website or improving a current one, we’ve assembled eight tips to ensure a successful site for small businesses or hobby enthusiasts.
Start with a clear objective for your site. Do you want to simply provide basic facts about your business? Do you want your customers to be able to access their account? Or do you want to increase sales? Once you’ve established your objective, lay out a plan for building the website to accomplish your goals, even if it’s through phased releases over a series of months.
Once your site is up, make sure people can find it! Use an easy-to-remember domain name (URL). If you can’t obtain the URL you want, keep trying until you come up with something easy. Also, start including your URL on all communications. Finally, study the logic search engines use to list sites in their results. To learn more about how to improve your position in Google’s search results, visit http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?answer=34432.
Ensure you present a clear and uncluttered site. Within 30 seconds, a visitor should immediately understand who you are and the intent of your site. Don’t waste their time with needless paragraphs, cluttered graphics, and the like. Keep the site simple, well organized and use lots of white space. Also, it is always better to use a white or light background with dark text. And be sure to proof and test your site carefully to remove broken links, broken images and typos.
Provide relevant, fresh content. Your visitors may come once and poke around, but they won’t return unless they find the information useful and at least partially new each time they visit. Original content is preferred over endless links to other sites.
Give visitors reasons to come back time and time again.
Ensure the navigation is easy to use. It may make sense to you, but does it make sense to the average user? Start by using established website conventions, don’t try to be clever. Little things like putting navigation bars on the left, underlining links and so on, go a long way toward making visitors feel at home. Have friends or family work their way through your site while thinking out loud as they surf. Where do they get tripped up?
Make sure the site loads easily. Not all your visitors will have broadband. Ensure you have optimized the graphics and html. Balance the bells and whistles with load times. It’s more important for visitors to get to what they want quickly than to be dazzled by eye candy.
Make your site is interactive. You can certainly start with “brochureware,” but be sure to continue to add interactive functionality, such as shopping carts, surveys and tools for user-generated content such as blogs and forums.
Finally, avoid annoyances. Pop-ups, intrusive advertising and disabled back buttons only frustrate users. You want your visitors to look forward to visiting your site, not to avoid it due to needless annoyances.
Click and Clack can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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