to Plan Your New Web Site
Why you must have a detailed plan even if
someone else is designing your site.
by: Dr. Kevin Nunley
are many fine designers who are ready to build your new web site. They
offer a quick quote on the price of pages, good deals on graphics, maybe
even search engine registration. But all these goodies don't do a thing
to get you started. Before anyone can begin building your new Internet
palace, you must have a detailed plan for what will be on your web site.
Starting a web site
is a lot like getting your taxes done. The real work comes BEFORE you
go to the preparer. Unless you've already got your box of organized receipts,
the preparer can't fill in the forms. Start your web site plan by pinning
down exactly what you want your site to accomplish. Draw a diagram on
paper. List the pages you will have. Create some phrases to center copy
around. You will save time, expense, and will get a much more effective
Will your pages sell
your products and services online or serve as a detailed brochure to support
your offline sales effort? Do you have one to two big products you will
center your pages around or do you plan a big supermarket of products
that need to be tied together under a prominent store image?
Narrow, more focused
web sites tend to do better on search engines. Their computers can easily
figure what search terms to classify your site under. With almost half
of all North Americans surfing the Net each week, search engines are becoming
the new yellow pages. It pays to plan your site to be search engine friendly.
Write down six to ten words and phrases that customers will use to search
for you. Build a page around each of those. The title (that line in the
box at the top or bottom of your browser), the meta tag (code in the page's
html) and the text should mention your search phrase several times with
copy that relates closely to the phrase.
Most web site owners
put up their new pages, THEN think about tailoring them for search engines.
That means you end up redoing most of your pages with greater expense
and poorer results.
Your opening page
should clearly tell visitors what your site is about. You may only have
a few seconds to make your point before people click away. They should
understand the most important benefit you provide. Use a headline and
a related graphic to give people an instant image of what your site and
organization can do for them. CarAccessories.com opens their first page
with a graphic of car covers, mirrors, and fancy hubcaps along with the
headline "Thousands of name brand accessories for your car...the
largest selection on the Net...with fast online ordering." Readers
instantly know what the site has to offer them.
Pages That Build Customer Trust.
Most sites have an
"about our company" page and a "contact us" page.
You can use these pages to build customer trust, one of the most important
factors in getting sales online. Prospects trust you when they feel like
they know you. Your "about us" page can feature a photo of you,
your employees, your building, or anything else that gives a visual sense
of who you are. You don't necessarily have to display a studio quality
portrait. One man had a photo of his hand pitching a ball. Lots of successful
home biz folks show themselves working behind a computer in a small, cluttered
office. It is a scene their readers can identify with.
Tell people why you
do what you do, your company philosophy, and how you got started. Your
"contact us" page should list the people in your company and
provide several ways to contact them. Tell people why they should reach
you and what they can expect when they do.
Your Main Theme With Secondary Pages.
If you have a central
product or service, introduce it with flair on your opening page. Save
less important or secondary products for inner pages. If your site will
have more than a dozen pages, gather similar pages into groups. Give each
group its own gateway page that introduces the section and displays links
to the related pages with a short description of what people will get
when they click the link.
One particulary organized
client gave me a diagram of what pages he would have and how they would
be grouped. Then he provided information on what each page should cover.
He didn't write the copy, but he did give me a solid idea of what he wanted
on pages. It cut in half the time needed to build his big web site.
Clear Order Page.
Keep your order page
or pages as clear and simple as possible. You won't need a full-blown
shopping cart if you offer five or fewer products. Make sure prices and
descriptions are easy to understand. Anything that frustrates or confuses
customers will make you lose sales. It is not unusual for a site to clean
up its order pages and see an immediate surge in sales.
Finally, resist the
temptation to load down your pages with too many slow loading graphics.
Corporations often feel their site doesn't look "big time" without
them. Jupiter Communications, one of the Net's top research firms, recently
predicted 78% of us will still be using slow phone modems through 2003.
Keep your pages lean and mean. Slow loaders mean lost customers.
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