Director of Marketing
Developing the Components for a Powerful Web Site
A web site can be one of your most powerful and most economical forms of marketing. Unfortunately, many sites have been built quickly without sufficient thought to what image and functionality are necessary to accomplish the business goals of the site. The graphic design and content areas of your site are projecting an image to your visitors. To be successful you must be sure the image you are projecting will promote credibility and trust with your target audience. Additionally, interaction with site visitors should be planned to further your business goals. Initially most web sites are developed as online brochures that simply provide information about your company, your services, and how to contact you. Many sites are static with little or no interaction being generated with site visitors. These businesses are not using their sites to take advantage of the significant market place the Internet now represents.
To take full advantage of the potential of your web site you must first understand what components make up a web site and how they impact your marketing and online presence. If you were to dissect a successful web site, you would find that many of them include some or all of the following components:
The graphic design and content of your site is most responsible for projecting your image to potential clients. Your customer profile will determine the design and content essential for reaching your target audience. Identifying what motivates your targeted customer can help a designer build a site that will facilitate sales, newsletter sign ups, or any other business goals of your site.. A bank may want to present itself as conservative, solid and here for the long term. Their design style will be dramatically different from an advertising agency that is trying to project a colorful, creative, and "on the cutting edge" image to their target audience.
The technologies chosen for displaying the graphics will also be key in determining the image and success of your site. For example, Flash animation might not be appropriate for the bank site, which is trying to project a conservative image. However, use of Flash animation might be very appropriate for the advertising agency that is trying to project a creative image. Another important factor to consider is download time. Since most site visitors are still using 56 kb modems, the speed of downloading is critical to a sites success. Studies show that slow downloading time can cause customers to leave before the site has finished loading. Be sure your design firm is aware of the various graphics and HTML optimizing techniques that can reduce download time. To take full advantage of the marketing power of your web site be sure that your graphics and the technologies used to display those graphics are appropriate for furthering your business goals.
The information architecture of your site takes the content and organizes it into easily accessible packets of information. Youll want be sure to develop a navigation structure, or architecture that allows the visitor to quickly link from the home page to the primary sub areas of the site and back again with just one click. Youll also need to determine what pages and content should be linked from those primary sub pages. As part of the architecture planning, name the links clearly and simply. For example, short, action oriented links that clearly indicate what the visitor will see when they are clicked on would be recommended. Be sure your navigation provides a structure that will further the business goals of your site.
Your message is communicated not only through the design style and layout of your site, but also through the content choices and information architecture used to build the site. When developing the content areas and information architecture be sure you provide a vehicle for doing business whether your goals are increasing sales, or simply informing a potential client of your companys existence. Define your target audience and determine what type of content will translate into action. Web content, especially on primary pages, must be concise and quickly readable. Visitors will not take the time to read volumes online before deciding to go further into the site. They want their information in small packets, easy to understand and quick to read. Relevant information should be able to be displayed in a browser window without the necessity for scrolling. Whenever appropriate use bold letters and bulleted lists to convey information at a glance.
Backend functionality allows the visitor to interact with your site. It provides the email contact us form, the opt-in for your newsletter form, or the ability to purchase on line. This is the engine of the site. This back-end programming is what allows the site to work, actually perform a sales transaction or other business goal. Some tasks that can be accomplished through a web site are:
The backend programming of your site is what allows you to take advantage of the full marketing power of your site. It is important and difficult to convey exactly what your programming needs are. This is not only a complicated process but it can also be the most expensive component of the web site. Be sure you are working with a company that you trust and that they clearly understand what you want to accomplish. Since backend programming is so complicated and the pricing is so varied, it is a good idea to get more than one backend proposal.
Smart designers, marketers, and site owners depend on fast, reliable hosting to insure their sites success. Many site owners dont realize how important their hosting decision is to the performance of their site and make their decision based on price. If customers cant access your site because it is down, sales will be impacted and many visitors will not return. You must be cautious of firms that host sites on a single in-house server or that buy space through whichever local or regional hosting firm provides the most profit on hosting sales. Many firms resale virtual domain space on one server using the same IP address for each site. If another site on that IP address has been banned from the search engines because of spamming, your site will be banned as well. Be sure to ask the following questions before making your hosting decision. Is your site being housed on a single in-house server? How will your site be maintained if something happens to their server or their building? Is your site data backed up everyday and maintained at a different location? Do they provide 24/7 technical support? Remember hosting is a critical component that impacts the performance of your site.
Marketing your site begins in the development stage. Since most visitors find new sites through web search engines, it is important to plan your site in ways that will optimize its rankings with the search engines. Key words should be employed in the meta description tags, the meta keywords tags, the sites title tags and other areas of HTML code and site content. There are also various common design elements that many firms frequently use in their designs that can cause problems with search engines ability to index the site. This means it wont be listed in the search engines and customers wont be able to find it. Its important to find a design firm that is aware of these issues and can build or re-design a site with the marketing component in mind. Registering with the appropriate search engines is crucial to the marketing of your site. Once the site is completed and it is registered with the search engines you can now turn your attention to other marketing vehicles both electronic and traditional to direct traffic to your site such as on line newsletters, etc. Dont forget one the most economical and effective ways to drive traffic to your site is to be sure that your web address is included on all your traditional marketing pieces including business cards, letterhead, brochures, etc.
The success of your web site can be determined in the development stage. The Graphic Design of your web site should reflect your companys agreed upon image. Your Content must deliver the message to your potential clients that will translate into action. The Information Architecture of your site must be simple and able to accomplish the business goals of your site. When considering what Backend Functionality you will need for a successful web site, be sure to communicate your needs clearly and get more than one proposal. Hosting is extremely important for your sites performance, choose a provider carefully. Remember Marketing your site begins in the development stage by using key words and search engine optimizing design techniques. Pay close attention to these components during the development or redevelopment stage of your site and you will create a powerful vehicle that will allow you to take full advantage of the marketing power of the Internet.