Wednesday, September 12, 2007

9 ways to improve your web site

Here are the most important aspects of your blog or web site, with questions and tips to help you improve it.

(1) Visual Impact: When your site hits the screen, what impact does it make? What’s the first, immediate, visual impression your site makes on new visitors?

Are the colors, graphics, and design appropriate? Does your site do a great job of presenting your company? Is it polished, personal, and pleasing to the eye? Or is it cold, amateur, generic, dull, old fashioned, ugly, unprofessional, complicated, anonymous, uninviting?

(2) Usability: Can site visitors quickly find the information they seek? Can users easily perform a task, and get the desired result? When a task is successful, do users get a confirmation message, assuring them of its completion?

What are the priority tasks that users want to perform on your site? What are the priority tasks you want users to perform on your site? How are you highlighting, explaining, and facilitating these tasks?

(3) Relevance: Do your customers or intended audience really seek what you display on your site? What needs do they have that are not being met by your site? What do your customers need to know so they can make a satisfying and appropriate product choice?

Blogs tend to dwell too much on personal feelings and experiences, with no lesson or warning to impart, no value to readers. Corporate sites can also be narcissistic and too focused on "we do this and this and this" and "we've been making this for X number of years" and "our products are top quality" and other fluff. Nobody buys it anymore.

The words "you" and "your" should push out the "we" and "our" copy in your site. Write the content from the viewpoint of how your stuff will benefit, entertain, or save money for your audience.

Not from the, what will seem selfish, viewpoint of how great your company and products are. On the web, customers are tired of the old sales bully hype pressures. They're advising each other now, peer to peer, and are turned off by old school sales strategies.

(4) Competitive Edge: How is your site differentiating you from your competitors? How many aspects of your site are based on direct customer input, suggestions, complaints? Based only on the web sites, would a typical prospect tend to choose your company, instead of competitors? What is it about your site that makes it stand out from the others?

Customers are now expecting companies to provide video, especially of news, tools, software, visually oriented services, and dynamic products whose benefits must be seen to be understood and believed. Technology, inspirational, and marketing topics are popular as audio podcasts.

How are you using, or at least linking to, video and audio on your site?

(5) Functionality: Do your online forms, tools, embedded video and audio players, site search, and other widgets work properly? Are they vulnerable to malicious attacks and spammers? Have you ever signed up for your own site’s newsletter?

(6) Link Strategy: Do you have links to substantiating or source material in your content? Do you link to reputable sites and authoritative blogs? Do you have graphic link buttons to trustworthy sites you endorse or enjoy, that quickly convey prestige-by-association for your site? While this is easy to fake, anybody can do it, still – consider adding graphic logo link badges to sites you feel are well-known, respected authorities.

You’ll drive traffic to good sites, they may reciprocate and display a link button for your site, and you’ll be saying, “I’m smart enough to know who’s smart in my field”.

Have you checked all your links lately, to ensure that they work? Only one way to be absolutely sure the URLs were typed in correctly: click them.

Links can change, unfortunately. Sometimes newspapers, magazines, and other information sites change the URL (web address) of certain pages. Often it’s the newspaper webmaster moving a story from the main page, and stashing it in an archive file. “Link rot”, i.e., web links that no longer navigate to the correct web page (generating a 404 Page Not Found error message), is very bad for site value and credibility.

(7) Credibility: Do you quote acknowledged experts outside your own company? Do you link to trade associations and trusted leaders in your field? Is your content up-to-date, free of typos and grammar mistakes? Are your claims and promotions modest and reserved, or frenzied and pushy?

Does your About page contain company history, photos and bios of key executives and customer contact personnel, and a clear explanation of what you do, make, or sell?

Do you link to sources of testimonials or endorsements?

(8) Update Frequency: Do you provide fresh content, in a news page, forum, blog, or upcoming events panel, that will make the site seem alive, with real people operating it? Or do web surfers and search engines shun your site because it seems abandoned, dead, disconnected from the dynamic, ever-growing, evolving web?

Learn from the incredible search engine boost blogs and micro-blogs like Twitter, get: keep that new content coming!

(9) Search Engine Findability: Can people find you on the web? When customers search for solutions, does your web site appear early in the search engine results? Is your site coded correctly to facilitate search engine spiders to index your site for search results pages?

Are you adding new content, with relevant keywords, to attract loyal readership and search engine indexers? Are you linking to and quoting other experts in your field? Are you writing educational, helpful, insightful articles and adding them to your site as free white papers, blog posts, or research documents?

Is your content so valuable and easy to read, that other sites link to and promote your site, thus increasing your authority value to search engines?


Butchie The Minx said...

No comments? That's bullshit! Did you learn that song yet? I love it. Don't hate Butchie.

Jayne said...

Helpful advice, all around. Thanks!