Your website could be the first contact a potential client has with your company, so it's absolutely crucial that it's well designed and user-friendly. If your knowledge of the online environment is limited, here are some of the key questions you need to ask about your site.
What is the purpose of your site?
Having a well-defined purpose for your site will help you identify what messages should be communicated to visitors, how the site should be managed, what content to include and everything involved with developing and running a website.
Be specific. For example, rather than saying you merely want to establish an online presence, your aim could be to generate leads for business and communicate with potential clients. You're basically setting a goal for the site and can then focus on achieving the goal.
How should it look?
The appearance of your website will be a big factor in its success. Your site should present a positive, professional image, without too much clutter or bombarding the user with too many bells and whistles.
Without having to go too drastic, update the look and feel of your site every few years in line with the current trends. There's nothing worse than looking at a boring site that hasn't been changed in five years.
What does it need to say?
The design and visual appeal of your site will draw visitors and hopefully encourage them to stay for a while. This is where good content comes in and can greatly affect the kind of experience a user has.
If needed, have your content written by a professional with experience in writing for the web. The writing shouldn't be too formal and must give as much info to the reader in as little text as possible.
What about the design?
The design of your site should complement the content, without overshadowing it. Go for a simple style that matches the message and the purpose of the site, as well as your type of business.
- Load time: The time it takes for your site to load (open) is very important. The faster it opens, the more likely a user will be to stick around and explore, as he won't have to wait forever for each page to load
- Error messages: If new visitors are getting error messages and can't access your site, they probably won't be back
- Layout: The layout you use should draw the reader's attention to the most important items. It can create an attractive design and make the site easy to use
- Colours and fonts: The colours of your site can have a huge impact on the overall look of the site. Don't go too bold or use too many colours. Think about your company brand and choose colours that fall in line with this. When it comes to font (the text type), think reader-friendly, plain and used consistently throughout
- Make it easy to navigate: Your readers must be able to find what they need easily or they will leave and you will have defeated the purpose of your website. If necessary, check out other sites to see how they've done it
- Use good quality images: It's amazing how blurry or amateurish pictures can spoil the look of a website. Be prepared to have good photos taken or pay for images relevant to your business
- Other visual elements: The South African online environment is still new and most users have the most basic of internet facilities. Keep this in mind when the designer proposes using flash elements, pop-up windows, videos and so on. It can either work for or against you, and may not be necessary depending on the type of business you have
So now that you have an awesome website, don't just leave it there and forget about it. Visit the site regularly to make sure everything is still working. Update it with any news about the company, successes, new products and so on. Make your site work for you and prove to be a good return on your investment.
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