Back in the late 90’s, having a website with the web address printed on your card, was more of a status symbol for business owners. What with Google still in a very nascent stage and practically no social media like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Orkut – doing real business through your website or getting your products in front of prospective customers, was quite an enormous or shall we say a near impossible task.
The only way you could actually generate eyeballs was by buying up expensive advt. space in popular portals, like Yahoo, AOL, or our very own Rediff.com. Cut back to 2009, and you have not only a dozen search engines competing to give you the best of the Web, but you also have useful tools like Blogs, Photo albums (flicker), Video (youtube, metacafe), and other social media where you can spread the word about your products and services. Now coming back to article topic, on creating a professional website, the spread of the Internet across the globe and easy availability of information – has forced many companies to revamp their websites in line with the needs of prospective customers using the latest in tools and technology.
Since majority of customers today use search engines to find products and services, before actually picking up the telephone, it is imperative, that your website provides all the required information in a clear and crisp manner. Some of the important aspects of a professional website are listed below.
1. No flash intros or heavy animations – This is a strict no-no for today’s websites. You cannot afford to make a customer wait and show him a flash animation that takes ages to actually load – even before he has actually visited your website home page.
2. Key Product/Service related information on your homepage – This is a very important aspect easily missed by so many website owners. Most of the website home pages are made up of flash banners and followed by a half page write-up about the company typically called ‘About Us’. The fact of the matter is that a customer would be interested to know more about the company – if he is actually interested in buying your product. So give him the key information of your products and services, with prices and specs if any – right on the main page.
3. Contact Information on key web pages – Many websites put up contact numbers only in their ‘Contact Us’ pages. And in certain sites, contact information would only be an enquiry form. How many of us, would buy from a shady shop in a narrow by lane with no business registration or with no permanent address. The same goes with your customers. They want to know where you are located and how they could reach you either by Phone/Fax or Email. This information needs to be displayed on your home page, product catalogue pages, service/support pages and most importantly the ‘Contact Us’ page.
4. Website copy – Why is website copy (content) important? – It converts more sales – period. Well written content on your website makes people learn, react, and prompts them to buy your products. It becomes all the more important to avoid typos (spelling mistakes) and grammatical errors which can scare away your customers.
6. Dead Links/ Broken Links– Nothing is more aggravating to a potential customer than to visit your website and find broken or dead links. A website with many inner pages usually runs into this kind of a problem, when the web designer forgets to check page links within a site. If you don’t have content in a particular page, ask your web designer not to link that page (even an under construction message is a bad idea), you can always come back and fill in some content, and link up that page with the rest of your site. There are many online tools now available, that can sniff out dead links, and avoid a potential embarrassing ‘Page cannot be displayed’ situation to your customers.
7. A Good Web host – What’s the point in having a fantastic site, but does not show up when it is most required – thanks to your neighbourhood web host – who is closed for lunch along with his server. Do some research – before buying your domain name and web hosting space. Find a web host who can vouch to keep your website live with minimum downtime, and is reachable when ever your website goes offline. Finding a Web Host is really difficult – and I would be sharing some valuable tips on what to look for in a web host – but that is for another day – keep reading.