Designing a Website for Your Business
Up to last article of this series, we learned what is eMarketing and how can you strategize the eMarketing efforts for your business with the DEMO Model.
In this issue, I will talk about one of the fundamental requirements you should satisfy for being effective with eMarketing. That is to having a compelling website for your business.
Having a website for your business is a very fundamental requirement, before you go online with your business. The website is the base camp for your business, on the internet. You drive potential customers to the website, and then convince them to buy from you. What happen if your website fails to satisfy the visitors coming in search for a solution from your company? This is why it is very important for to have the website right from the outset, in order to get better results from your online marketing activities.
Who Owns the Website of Your Company?
A question so regularly asked and even more regularly answered incorrectly is “who should make the decisions about your company’s website?” A common trend in Sri Lanka is to passing the responsibility of the website to the most “techy guy” in the entire company (if it’s a small company), or to the Network/IT division if it is a larger company. The idea behind this is “website is a techy thing, and someone with an IT background should handle it”. A vast majority of websites fail to deliver sound business results, simply because of this blatant blunder committed by most well established companies in this country. On the other hand, most web design firms in Sri Lanka, started as freelance businesses by someone with the technical knowledge of setting up a website, or as joint ventures of few such people. These web design firms largely lacked the “business sense” when designing the structure of the website. Websites created by such firms for many clients in business sector, failed to deliver any tangible business results for the companies who used their services. This created a massive frustration among the business community in Sri Lanka, about the whole concept of having a website for their business. I have talked to many such Sri Lankan businessmen, who still believe having a website for their business is a mere waste of money; as a result of such bad experiences with low quality web design firms.
Web design firms alone cannot be blamed about this sad situation. Even the business community has done it wrong, when they first started setting up a website for their company. A friend of mine working for a well established web design company in Colombo told me, “90% of the time when we go for a client meeting, we are welcomed and hosted by the head of IT department and his team. Very rarely we are allowed to talk to the business and marketing people”. If you look at the websites of some of the biggest companies in Sri Lanka, you will see the information on those sites have not been updated for last 5 years. They simply followed the “trend” and put up a website, as yet another “IT department job”, and let it stagnating there forever. When they don’t see the expected “business results” from the website, they blame the internet as “a waste of time” and the web design people as “scammers”.
If you need business results from your website, let the business people handle the website. Your company’s website must be owned and managed by the marketing division, or (if you don’t have a marketing division) by the people who are most close to your customers. Every decision regarding the user interface of the website needs to be made by the marketing division. The role of IT is only to decide, what back-end systems to be used when creating the website. The rest; including the content, color theme, layouts, interface elements, are totally business decisions and must be made with the customer in forefront.
As I mentioned earlier, your website is a tool of communication with the customers. If it doesn’t integrate well with rest of your customer communications, or if it doesn’t contain the latest customer communications, then you will see your website is failing to communicate with the customers. When you run a new advertising campaign on TV, you should synchronize it with your website to reflect more relevant information about the new campaign. Because, your customers come online to search for more information on what you advertise. If you fail to give what they want; what you are doing is possibly turning back thousands of potential customers.
Importance of Usability
Usability; or the ease of navigating through the site to complete a desired action by a visitor is the most important factor you have to keep in mind when designing a website. It is known that up to 20% of all Internet users have some form of disability and 10% of males are colorblind. These factors need to be kept in mind when designing the interface of your website.
A website with poor usability is more likely to be abandoned quickly by its visitors. By improving some of the basic usability issues, a website can cut the bounce rate (percentage of visitors who view only a one page of the website) dramatically.
Before launching the website for your actual customers, you must test the site for usability among a sample of your target audience. If this is not possible, you should at least consult someone with both the knowledge of marketing and website usability to evaluate the site and make suggestions for improvements.
Selecting the Color Combinations
Research says that the visual appeal of a website is assessed within 50 milliseconds. Therefore it is really important to have an appealing look & feel for your website, for being convincing enough for your visitors. It should not look like a black & white document in Times New Roman font on an A4 sheet. On the other extreme, it should not look like the exterior of an up market Casino in Las Vegas. You should strike a balance in between these two extremes, and pick an ideal color scheme for your website.
The ideal color scheme should contain maximum 2 main colors, and a maximum of 5 to 6 variations of those two colors in total. Remember in mind that using as many as colors is not going to make your website appealing to the customers more.
Eg: The Facebook color theme contains a set of simple color variations.
The color scheme of your website should ideally match the corporate colors of your company, but it is not always a must. If you are choosing a different color platter, make sure you have at least one main color to resemble your corporate identity.
Once you select your color platter, then decide which exact color is to be used for different elements of your website like, for filling text boxes, colors of buttons, colors of headings, links etc. After deciding on these things, strictly adhere to the standards. For example, if you assign a particular lighter green for the buttons of your website; don’t use a blue color button in a deep linked page of your website. If you cannot decide alone the perfect color platter for your website, get the help from a professional designer or someone who is knowledgeable about colors and design elements.
How Search Engine Friendly is Your Site?
When designing your website, you must adhere to the basic guidelines of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), in order to be able to easily found by main search engines like Google and Yahoo. There are number of “on site factors” that you have to keep in mind when designing your website. You must have a basic knowledge in Search Engine Optimization, or you should consult someone with the skill of SEO, before you make a final decision of your website’s design. These basic factors that you have to pay attention includes (but not limit to) the factors such as..
- Validating your HTML code so it is “spider” compliant
- Making sure you use the correct file names (URLs) for your web pages (Dynamic Vs Static pages)
The Title Tag should be compelling and focused
- Your description tag needs to work hand-in-hand with the title to get the searcher to “click” on the listing.
- Every page should have a unique title & description
- CSS should be referenced as an external file
- Main graphics uare tagged with proper ALT tags
A business website should have a business objective in focus, even if the objective is not an eCommerce conversion. It might be a sales lead for your offline business, or sign up to your newsletter. You should have a clear picture in mind, how your visitors will navigate through to the objective of your website. This expected navigation path towards the ultimate goal, is known as the “conversion funnel” of your website. When designing the website, you should make sure the content on your website does not disturb this expected conversion funnel, and at the same time you have to make sure your site contains enough resources and tools for the user to navigate easily through to the ultimate goal. Failing to have the supporting content and tools may result in the visitor abandoning your site at some point, before completing the goal.
We learned that, the design of the website can either make your business or break your business, depending on the effort you put towards planning your website. We further learned that the website of a business firm, should always be managed by the marketing department, and not by the IT department. When designing a website, you must focus on its usability, color theme, ease of navigation, the search engine friendliness, and the conversion funnel towards the business goal.
In the Next Issue
Up to now, in the four articles so far in this series, what we have discussed is mainly about how to strategizing your emarketing efforts. Now with the strategy is properly in place, from next issue onwards we will focus on the execution part of your eMarketing strategy. In the next issue, I will cover the Search Engine Marketing in general, and later on I will take each of the Search Engine Marketing tools in details.