The Ways of the Web
Winning Website Strategies for Companies Large and Small
by Paula Satow, Managing Member, Satow Strategies, LLC
If your home is your castle then your company’s home page must be one of your firm’s most valuable assets. And, just like a house works best when it is designed for the family who lives there, so, too, a Web site’s design works best when it is tailored to fit the business or group it represents. If you sell retail products, your Web site should look like a store your customers never want to leave. If you sell your services or expertise, then your site should uniquely showcase your unique prowess. This all sounds pretty basic and, yet, many companies do not spend enough time defining the basic functionality of their site before implementing a design. You can start with this simple, three-step analysis:
Step One: Consider whether your site will be “Read-only” or “Read-Write”
Although the Web is still in its nascence, Web applications are already in their second generation. Now, instead of being “Read-Only” in nature – where 100% of the content is developed by the company and for the company – new sites are springing up everywhere that are “Read-Write” in nature. Such sites boost the added dimension of allowing visitors to post content to them – they are more by the people and for the people. With the added dimension that Read-Write sites promise to deliver, the Internet may never be the same. This is a bandwagon that your firm may be advised to jump on. So, before you commit to a new Web site design, consider how the added interaction of visitor/customer postings can help you build your brand. For instance, Read-Write site, YouTube, was just sold to Google for over $1.5 Billion. Talk about brand valuation!
Step Two: Consider the basic functionality of your new site
Web sites can serve a host of purposes and companies can design their site’s primary functionality around their business model and financial goals. Common site models include:
E-Brochure: Perhaps the most common category of Web sites today, e-brochure sites help companies and organizations provide a one-stop resource to convey basic information on what makes their company tick.
E-Store: Many companies use the Web as a way to sell their products and services in an e-commerce environment.
E-Network: Social networking is one of the Internet’s newest buzzwords. Web sites that serve as a resource-finder to help people locate everything from new friends to new business suppliers are becoming more prevalent.
Content Portal: Companies who offer content expertise around a particular industry or content area design their sites for quick, easy access to comprehensive information around their focus segment.
Web-based Application: From on-line project management to sales force tools to media downloading, many web portals are centered around application functionality to help individuals and businesses access the capabilities they need to live and work better.
Step Three: Keep It S-I-M-P-L-E
No matter what type of site you decide is best for your organization, when it finally comes time to produce it and roll it out, remember to keep it Short, Intuitive, Motivating, Leveraged, Positioned and Elegant.
Short – When a site is too wordy, you can loose visitors within one or two clicks. Remember, Google revolutionized the Internet and their site design is as simple and basic as can be.
Intuitive – Design your site to be visual and easy to grasp at a glance. The Internet is a real-time, visual medium. Take advantage of its sights, sounds and action to more readily convey your key messages and brand essence. Remember, if one picture is worth a thousand words, then one digital image can help you capture a new customer in a snap.
Motivating – Include a clear call to action right up front and across the site to be sure visitors understand the possibilities it represents.
Positioned – Be sure to include a clear positioning statement that conveys how different you are from the competition. If prospects are confused about what you stand for, you will lose them as fast as you can say, “Click Here.”
Leveraged – Effectively tap into the power of your brand and the brands of your strategic partners to help ensure that your Web site strategically conveys their true meaning and business value.
Elegant – Create a design that is well-organized and well-engineered. Use exciting techniques like flash and sound effects but do not overuse them. Over-engineering a site can slow down a site and make even the best special effects appear gratuitous and trite.
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