Friday, September 28, 2007
Website development can be a complicated thing. In this post firm Patrick Schwerdtfeger offers up some great things to consider that truly simplify the website design process. Before designing a new website (or redesigning an existing site), consider these questions. They will help you develop a solid development plan that is aligned with your audience and website's purpose.
This first website objective is focus. Your site needs to have a narrow and specific focus. Why is this? Because there are literally millions of websites out there and the visitors you're lucky enough to attract will only take a few seconds to decide whether they'll stick around or whether they'll simply click the back button and continue browsing elsewhere. Within those few seconds, your site needs to communicate exactly what it's designed to do so the visitor can decide if it meets his or her needs or not.
One of the best exercises to enhance the focus of your site is to establish a 15 to 25-word positioning statement that guides all your development activity going forward. Think about it like a mission statement. It should articulate exactly what your website does in just 15 to 25 words.
Another way to look at it is to do a Google search for a keyword in your field and see what comes up in the results page. Under each listing, there's a short description of what that site is all about. As it turns out, the search engines get that description from the meta tags on those websites but it's exactly the same thing. What do you want YOUR description to say?
Once you've established a positioning statement, you should display it prominently on your homepage. It should be one of the first things visitors see when they land on your website. And as I mentioned above, the same statement should be included in your meta tags as your site description. That way, the search engines know exactly what your site is about at the same time. And if your site shows up in a search results page, that description will show up as part of your listing.
The second objective is DEPTH. Again, this objective serves your visitors as well as the search engines. Build a massive amount of content all about your narrow business focus. That way, if a visitor lands on your website and decides in the first few seconds that they need what you're providing, they'll go on to find a ton of resources all about that topic, satisfying their need and establishing trust along the way.
Depth of content helps your website with the search engines as well. Google uses complicated algorithms to assess value to different websites and one of the biggest things they look for is content. If your website has a narrow focus and lots of content about that focus, it will get ranked higher within your area of expertise. Google will consider your site a good resource for people searching for your narrow focus.
The third objective is to make your site STICKY. This is a relatively new term that describes a website's ability to keep a visitor on the site. A lot of sites do a fairly good job of attracting visitors but many of those visitors take one look at the site and leave within a second or two. As I mentioned earlier, the positioning statement can do a lot to help someone understand what your site is designed to do. But you need more than that to keep them browsing.
The visitor needs to see immediate value when they visit your site. They need to see something that will benefit them right away. They need to see something they can use to make their own lives better. This is the foundation behind today's value-first marketing moniker. People have been over-marketed and have become skeptical in clever marketing slogans. They want to see the value. They want proof that you can deliver. They want to sample your product or service before they buy anything.
You should spend some time and think about what you can offer your website visitors as soon as they land on your site. It could be information. It could be a tool or calculator of some kind. It could be a free subscription. It could be an entertaining video or an interactive game they can play. Whatever it is, you need to capture your visitor within seconds and guide them to something that will benefit them.
Once they've received one piece of value, give them a second and then a third. Guide them through a maze of value, encouraging them to continue browsing and discovering even more. This is the key to a sticky website and you can get a good idea of your progress by measuring your average time on the site through your analytics platform.
There are a million different websites out there and they're all designed to achieve different objectives. But each one of those websites can be a bit better by incorporating more focus, depth and stickiness. All three improve your website' effectiveness and all three offer benefits with the search engines as well.