Be honest - is your website up to scratch?

By: Sian Lenegan

Date: 17 June 2011

Website WWW

There are so many ways a website can be used as a business tool. To start with main business objective should always lead the brief for any website design project. Write it in capital letters at the top of every page if you have to!

To give you an idea of how powerful a business tool your company website can be and get those creative ideas flowing, your website can: free up manpower, answer questions at all hours, provide simple information for people to find you, publicise events and products, show off your awards and news, take orders online and much more.

In any way that you look at your company website, it should shadow the effectiveness of any referral, direct marketing or advertising campaigns.

The real question is what your website should be doing for your customers?

Service! A good website should provide a good service, the same as a good employee. Think of your website as your show room or shop window, it’s a representation of your business.

Your company website is how people find you, where they go to find more information and make comparisons. Just like a first date, those first impressions are very important.

Track and measure feedback

Use your website to track your visitors and measure their feedback, this will help you to make decisions about additions, changes and upgrades too. Here are some of the measures we recommend are part of your company’s quarterly review and KPIs:

  • Number of visitors (new vs. old)
  • How long does each visitor spend on your website
  • What pages are viewed the most
  • Where visitors are from
  • What are your biggest referring websites

These are all important and part of the bigger picture — do you know how many visitors on average translate into an enquiry and how many web enquiries convert into customers? This is the first step in calculating your website’s return on investment.

Your website must encourage people to act

Encourage action. It’s important to define this first and the creative brief of any website should be based around:

  • What you want your visitors to look at on the website
  • What you want them to do when they leave your website
  • What you want them to remember most about your website

Once you’ve answered these questions, you can begin to develop an action-oriented website right from the home page. Take a peak at the Microsoft home page, every piece of text is written with the objective to bring you deeper into their website.

It may sound like common sense but it’s crucial to make sure it’s easy for customers to get in touch with you. Put your phone number in a clear and obvious place and provide several different ways for people to get in touch (your website is open 24/7). Usability research suggests that users are accustomed to finding a phone number within the footer of the website on the right hand side.

Is your website a star or should it be heading for retirement?

Answer the following questions and be honest with yourself, no one is judging you:

  • Does your website communicate everything about your business that it should?
  • Do you regularly measure your website’s success?
  • Does your website have your current products, services and pricing?
  • Is your address, phone number and email address easily visible?
  • Does your website provide a positive brand experience? Is it professional and well-suited to your business image and values?
  • Does your website answer all known questions easily and clearly?
  • Does your website stand head and shoulders above the competition?
  • Does your website include current job vacancies and openings posted?

If you can answer yes to all these questions, then you get a gold star and your website gets two gold stars! For the rest of us (yes I mean us), it’s great to wake up and smell the coffee from time to time and refocus on what’s important.

Typically small to medium sized businesses make their website when they first open up and it never gets a look in again. Maybe your website is one your cousin made for you or one of those cookie cutter websites you hashed together. Let’s face it, this isn’t how you’d treat your star sales person.

What your website won’t do for you

It won’t generate content by itself, it won’t analyse your business and intuitively know which product or service to promote and it won’t be able to discover what makes your service unique and better than the competition.

This is my rather long-winded way of saying — “what you put in, is what you get out.”  So make the most of it and understand that not just any old website will do… your website needs to be worthy of your business image.

Sian Lenegan is account director at Sixth Story.

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