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25 Feb 2013

Non-Technical Web Design Tips From Clearwater

As a Clearwater Florida business owner myself, I write this article with hope that the Google Gods will be kind and make it easy for my fellow local companies to find.  I’m not going to talk about HTML (web code) or other highly technical stuff. What I want to talk about is something the average business owner can actually understand – website content, (the stuff we see on websites). You know, like the words, the ideas, the photos, etc.

I see websites that have tons of information on them, but are so disorganized that one cannot easily find anything in particular. And I see other sites that lack any really useful data. Either way, I’m disappointed when visiting such sites. I’m sure you have seen a few like this yourself. But when we each build a website for OUR OWN company, we must take care not to fall into the age old trap of “Can’t see the forest for the trees”.

When you are too close to a subject, it’s easy to assume things that are not so. Like assuming that other people (your prospects) have the same understanding of your business as you do. Perhaps they don’t know what HTML is, so why not define all industry jargon? Hey, if it’s not in Webster’s Dictionary, you should define it on your website.

I see many websites online that fail to answer even the most basic questions people usually look for when shopping online. Some sites do not tell what is offered! Some have no phone number or even give a reason as to why I should buy from their company rather than others. This is not sensible marketing!

This also has a ‘dual effect’: it denies vital data to the search engines which results in poor rankings, AND it denies data to consumers, resulting in a poor sales ratio. Such websites rarely make enough money to cover the cost to build them. I have seen other sites where vital information becomes buried among mountains of details and it is not easy to unearth the important data. Yet others have their page links labeled with what seem to be mystery words and thus force visitors to guess what they might find. This all adds up to a non-user-friendly website.

How to organize your website

a. Start with a rough outline for the site, giving just an overview of the pages you want. Each web page is like a chapter in a book; it focuses on one thing and thus helps to sort out the information for visitors, making it easier for them to follow.

b. Next, write an outline for each web page. Each page should have a purpose. For example, if you are creating the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page, the purpose could be to “answer the most common questions people have about your products”.

c. In outlining the home page, keep it brief and to the point. Your main headline should also be your “core message”. The core message is an important benefit (preferably the main one) that you offer customers, said in the fewest words possible. Some very famous examples might include, “Fifteen minutes could save you fifteen percent or more on car insurance,” “Quality is Job 1,” “You can trust your car to the man who wears the star,” and “The milk chocolate melts in your mouth – not in your hand.” Although these are currently, or were used as advertising slogans, they also qualify as “core messages” about a product or service being sold.

d. After you have outlined the pages of the site, begin with your home page and write your headline. Use something catchy or interesting. Try not to bore people with a headline like “We Sell Better Mufflers”. Be creative! Something like – “The World’s Hottest Mufflers!”

e. Then explain how or why you are able to offer this but keep it brief and stick to the point. The home page should range from two or three paragraphs or possibly six or eight paragraphs maximum. Write what you would say to a customer asking you about your product or service.

f. Do the same process for each page of your website. Write a headline, and then explain more about that headline in short, concise paragraphs.

g. After you have finished writing all the pages, set them aside for at least one full day. This gives your mind a chance to rest before you review. Seriously, do not think about your website for one whole day.

h. Go back and review what you have written, then revise it where you feel it can be improved.

i. Finally, have three or four people review it, and listen to their feedback. Make more improvements where the feedback makes sense to you.

j. Photo Selection – After you have written, edited, and finalized your text, it is time to select your photos. If you already have photos of products, staff, facilities, signs, etc., that are of good quality, use these for your website. If you have no such photos, have them made. By good quality photos, I mean they are “in focus”, have proper lighting, and are easily recognizable images of something. Never use photos that look grainy, out of focus, too light, too dark, or are not clearly recognizable. Show the photos to people not familiar with your business and get their reactions.

Having a poorly organized website makes your company look bad to the public. By having a well organized website, you make your company look good. Your public online “image” can either hurt your company or help it. It’s your choice, and it’s a very important one indeed. If you need help, see our website at www.profitgate.net. Feel free to give me a call if you have questions.

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