1) No-Name Attempts
Many small businesses attempt to set-up FREE online shops with hosting providers like Geocities, Angelfire, Tripod and MSN rather than registering and hosting their own web site. The problem with using many free hosting providers is you end up with an address like: www.members.tripod.com/DeanArrowAndAssociates. Which web address would you rather use: the one listed above or www.DeanArrow.com? Your not the only shopper who feels reassured by a “real” business web address.
The same holds true for email addresses. If you are running a business, it is a good idea to set up an email account that uses your unique domain name. As you send messages to: potential clients, your bank, or suppliers; info@DeanArrow.com looks far more professional than
Avoid the No-name Pitfall
It is possible for you to register a domain name for less than $12.00 a year. If you must, you can point the newly registered domain name to a free hosting provider and get a single email address for an additional $10/yr. That should fit even the most constrained budget. However, once a domain name is registered, you should set-up with a real hosting provider. They will provide you with a wealth of services including: multiple email addresses, unlimited auto-responders, database support, huge bandwidth, backup & restore support, technical support, multi-media support, and the list goes on; all for less than $35/month.
“That is the ugliest web site I have ever seen!” Or, that is what most people think when you have your friend’s cousin’s high school student design your web site. Nothing against high school students, but one semester of keyboarding does not a web designer make. An alternative solution would be to download some free web design tools and use one of their templates. Many tools are freely available with basic templates and color choices. This is an acceptable option if you don’t mind your site looking like 10,000 other sites. Otherwise, you need a custom design. However, unless you are a better designer than the average person, it is a good idea to have a real artist design your site.
Avoid the Uuuugly Pitfall
Have a professional web design artist develop or extend your brand with a custom online presence. The new brand will define your position in the market place as it breaths, speaks, and listens for you. It will display a constant and consistent message visually and verbally.
3) Stagnant Content
AOL and Disney have proven “Content Is King.” Users visit your site looking for something. They will return to see what’s new. If your site is not changed at least every 6 months it is stagnant and will lose its appeal. Some websites change content by the minute. Most sites need to change their content somewhere in between these two extremes. If you developed the website yourself you know how time consuming that can be. On the other hand, if you paid to have the site developed, you know that constant changes are going to be expensive.
Avoid the Stagnant Content Pitfall
Develop or have your site developed with Content Management features that allows your content to be dynamically generated. This typically requires a database and/or web services but will save you time and money, not to mention keep your clients coming back again and again. Content Management Systems (CMS) allow real estate companies and online stores alike to efficiently keep their inventory up-to-date with the click of a few buttons. If Content Is King, it is a gentle King, inviting users to make return visits to see the latest.
Remember how Content Is King and visitors come looking for something? Seldom are you able to show all you need or want to show on a single page. Your web site is suppose to be full of all the information a customer would ever want to know just not all on the homepage. Organizing your content for usability is called Information Architecture and is typically conveyed through menus. The more information you have to share the more time must be spent developing your Information Architecture.
Avoid the Usability Pitfall
Three simple rules apply here:
1. Keep your menu structure to two levels.
2. Never hide your first level.
3. If you think your information is so complex that you need three levels, refer to rule #1.
More often than you realize, users want to print the information they have found at your web site. Surfers have to show what they found to someone else or read your information offline. Browsers make it easy to print any page. BUT sites that are too wide for the printed page make for frustrated customers.
Avoid the Printability Pitfall
Design issues address printability. In general, pages should print nearly the same as they appear on the screen with the following exceptions: 1) Background colors and images do not print unless that particular feature is switched on in the browser. 2) Since the computer screen is wider than the printed page, if any portion of the design is wider than 715 pixels, accordion style design must be used to allow the page to shrink to fit on the printed page.
6) Narrow Vision
Many companies are jumping onto the website band wagon to catch-up with their competitors only to build a “me too” site that lands them in one or more of the previously mentioned pitfalls. If your going to go to the trouble of developing a website, look for a real Return On Investment. Build in features that actually server your customers. Ask yourself, what information and services can I provide directly to my customers right on my website?
Avoid the Narrow Vision Pitfall
Go beyond presenting products and information by integrating business process into your web site. Customer Relations Management, Order Placement, Information Distribution, Data Collection, Computer Based Training, Webinars, and Surveys, are all examples of business processes that can be integrated to some degree on the web. Robert Carter, CIO of FedEx recently conveyed that it only costs 4 cents to track a package online, compared with $2.14 when a live customer service agent gets involved. Currently, the FedEx web site gets an average of 2.3 million package-tracking requests a day, which adds up to a $25 million savings each month. These statements clearly show that Business Web Integration is the key to ROI.
7) If You Build It, They Will Come
A web site can be a friendly open door to your business 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, answering questions and generating interest in your services. Clients should be able to come to your Internet office and browse around for free information at any hour that is convenient to them. However, if no one knows about your web site, the door is essentially closed. Marketing is the avenue of promoting your web site. No Promotion, no traffic!
Avoid the If You Build It, They Will Come Pitfall
Letting clients know about your new open door does not have to be rocket science. While there are many options, consider the following:
1. Traditional: You should add your web site address to every piece of business correspondence: Completed Work Signatures, Business Cards, Stationery, Envelopes, Invoices, Fax Cover Sheet, Voice Mail Messages, TV/Radio Ads, Yellow Page Ads, Association Directories, Car and Yard Signs, Press Releases, Direct Marketing Material, Pamphlets, Brochures, and Proposals. Do not bother moving on to high-tech marketing until you are well underway with traditional marketing.
2. High-Tech: Email Marketing, Banner Ads, Link Exchanges, and Affiliate Programs are all good examples of high-tech marketing methods. But Search Engine Optimization should take precedence. Top ranking in a major search engine like Google, Yahoo, Infoseek, Lycos, or AltaVista will often generate more targeted traffic than any other online marketing tool. The trick is knowing the key words that users actually use and seeding your pages with those key words. Any business that focuses on a specific set of key words can greatly benefit from search engine positioning.