The basic framework of any website includes the following elements:
- Welcome/Home page -- This is the page that creates the connection with your customers. If you fail to capture their attention and make them feel like you understand them, they are unlikely to look at other pages. Make it short, direct, relevant, use bullets.
- Product / Services -- What and why your target market is looking at your site.
- About Us -- This is where you describe why people should deal with you in particular.
- Contact Us -- Don't burry yourself. Make it easy for people to reach you.
Of course there are many other features you can add but these are the ones that people expect to find on every site. Don't get too creative here with the titles of these pages. You'll just annoy your visitors and make it harder for them to navigate your website.
Remember, if they are on your website, you've already got their attention. The trick is in keeping it for more than 5-20 seconds.
Before You Start Developing Web Pages
- Start by brainstorming. Get a trusted friend or partner involved. Write down all your ideas, good, bad, strange, etc. You never know… even bad ideas can be the inspiration for good ones. Remember, there are no bad ideas in a brainstorming session. This is the time to come up with ideas, not decide if they are good, bad or even feasible. Even if you don't know how to do something, if there is a will, there will be a way.
- Leave the list lying around for a day. It will give you time to think about your ideas, possibly even start to form a vision.
- Sit down together again to cross off any ideas which really do not interest you. Discuss the viability of the rest.
- Categorize your ideas into aspects of your business. If you are a personal trainer for example, your categories might include Personal, Corporate, Physical, Mental, Nutrition, These categories will for them menu at the top of the web page.
- Take a blank sheet of paper and write the name of the category at the top of the page. Then add your ideas to each corresponding sheet. These will form the menus on the side of your screen. If something could fall into more than one category, just add it to all areas where it would apply most. That's the advantage of the web, being able to link related pages together like a web.
- Prioritize the items in each category by how important they are to your target market and how interested you are in making the item a part of your business. This will help determine the order you should be working on them. Most relevant to your market first, least important and interesting last on the to do list.
- Develop content for each item.
Take pictures of some of your clients while working with them and at events. Be sure to get their permission to use their pictures on your site. Healthy, attractive looking people cause visitors to want to look, feel and succeed too. If you are a public speaker or instructor, a crowd of people listening to what you have to say or following your lead will give people the impression that you are worth paying attention to. Depending on your target market, it might also help to include a wide range of people (young, old, male, female, black, white, red and brown, the purple and yellow!) having fun, smiling and wearing your corporate t-shirts.
Ask your happiest customers, individuals and companies, for testimonials. Nothing says success like a few great words from your most satisfied customers.
If you organize your web site well, there will be lots of room for expansion down the road.
Only once you have developed your ideas for the web site should you consider developing your home page. Think about what you might look for or catch your attention in a positive way when you visit your competitors website. Is information about the company the first thing your customers would really be looking forward to?
Remember: Customers Don't Care What You Want
All they care about is what you can do to help reduce or eliminate their pain or give them pleasure. If you start with "We offer…", "We provide…", "We've been around for…", "Our experts…" or "I believe…", you are focused on the wrong person.
Have direct links to the most popular pages on your site. Unlike a department store where they make you walk through specific sections of the store to get to where you really want to go, on the web, people will leave your site if they can't find what they are looking for within a few seconds. Treat your customers with the respect they deserve.
Again contrary to the department store, tying related things together on your site will encourage people to explore the areas that are of most interest to them. For example, someone who is interested in aqua fitness might also be interested in bathing suits and books on nutrition. They don't actually need to be on the same page but there should be an easy way for people to quickly jump there. Another example is people who want to workout over their lunch hour might also appreciate a link to meal replacement shakes so that they can not only workout, but have a way to get their meal in too. Get out of your head -- think like the a customer, think like a consumer.
If you need more ideas, talk to your happy customers about your new web site and your business. Let them know that you value their opinions and listen to what they are saying. This is not the time to justify your point of view. Listen and take notes.
Your home page should be able to either answer the visitors questions or capture their interest enough into clicking on a link on the web site. The rule of thumb is the longer you can keep someone on your web site, the greater your chances of doing business with them.
As for a blog or articles, good communications with your customers is always a great idea. Encourage visitors to expresses their thoughts through comments. It's really the community area of your site. It is an opportunity to be responsive and to demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of your industry, your business and your clients.
Once you've got your website settled, make your next step to explore the world of social media and figure out how to enhance communication and interaction with your target market.