Is Your Web Site Pulling Its Own Weight?
by Dean Rieck
It wasn't that long ago when having a Web site was a big deal. Business owners would spend a lot of time and effort to create and promote a site because of its novelty. It was primarily a status symbol.
Today, having a Web site is routine. Perhaps too routine. Since the novelty has worn off, many businesses don't spend much time or effort on their Web site. Once it's up, it may be months or years before they think about it again.
That's a problem because a Web site is now a key business asset. It's one of the first places people look for information about your products and services. It can be a brochure for your business, a sales lead generator, a customer relationship tool, a catalog, a technical support option, and much more.
So it begs the question: Is your Web site pulling its own weight? Is it providing the information potential customers expect? Does it help generate leads or make sales?
If it's been a while since you took a good look at your Web site, maybe it's time for a quick evaluation. Here are a few tips.
- Home Page Is your home page an informative doorway to your site or just an annoying splash page that most people skip? Can visitors tell at a glance who you are and what you offer? Is the organization of your site obvious from looking at your navigational links? Does the home page give a good first impression? Do you have copy and links that entice people deeper into your site? Does your home page load quickly?
- Key Pages Do you include an "about" page with an overview of your organization? Is there a page outlining your primary products or services? Do you have a section for testimonials? Is there a contact page with multiple options, including phone, e-mail, contact form, and street address? Do you have a FAQ page with answers to common questions? Is there a way to view or request samples? Is your order page or information-request page easy to find?
- Content Do you include information on how to use or benefit from your products or services? Is there extra content your visitors may find interesting and relevant to their needs? Have you included case studies, reports, how-to articles, and other useful content? Is everything written clearly and persuasively?
- Architecture Is your site organized intuitively? Do you group similar items so information is easy to find? Have you included a site map that shows how your site is organized and provides a link to all the key pages on your site?
- Navigation Is your navigational menu consistent from page to page? Are the button labels or links easy to understand? Does your menu provide one-click access to every major section of your site? Are there secondary navigational menus in areas with lots of content? Is the secondary menu consistent and clearly labeled?
- Links Do all your links work? Are you using informative links within your text, such as "free report," or ambiguous links, such as "click here?" Are you confusing people with text underlines that look like links but aren't?
- Typography Are you using type that is easy to read? Is it large enough on the average computer screen (not just on a designer's oversized screen)? Are you using Cascading Style Sheets so you can set reader-friendly line spacing? Are you using an optimum column width? Have you tested the legibility of your site on a variety of browsers and monitors? Are you using headlines, subheads, bullet points, and other typographic elements to organize content and make scanning your site easy or do you have big blocks of solid text?
- Performance Do your pages load quickly? Are your photos and graphics optimized for speed? Does your site use lean code to improve performance? Is your search function fast? Does your search function return useful information? Is your server adequate to handle your average traffic level? How does your server perform when you have traffic spikes? Have you looked at your site from a variety of outside computers to see what your visitors are seeing?
If you're serious about evaluating your site, you should ask people who are unfamiliar with your company to take a look and tell you what they think. You can also survey your visitors or customers for their input.
And don't forget to look at the sites of your competitors. They might be doing a lot of smart things that you should be doing to stay competitive.
Copyright © 2007 Dean Rieck. All Rights Reserved.
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