Click here to go back to the index

* Art 1 * Art 2 * Art 3 * Art 4 * Art 5 * Art 6 * Art 7 * Art 8 * Art 10 * Art 11 * Art 12 * Art 13 * Art 14 * Art 15 * Art 16 * Art 17 * Art 18 * Art 19 *

Modern Web Site Design: Getting people to come back Part V

By Marc Bissonnette

Here we almost a year after the last installment of this series was written and there are still a lot of sites falling into the same traps as before. Therefore, we will look again at a few necessities of a website.

The very first thing you need to accept is the fact that your website needs new content *at least* on a weekly basis. Given some of the portal sites out there that you are competing with for your user's attention, new content on a daily basis is more realistic if you're looking for a site that *really* attracts the traffic.

The first question you need to ask yourself about your website, on a regular basis, since a purpose of a site can change easily is this: What is the purpose of my site?

The answer will fall into one of four main categories, with combinations being common, as well:

  • Sales: My site is designed to sell a product or service.
  • Support: My site is designed to help my clients with my products or services and to reduce support costs. (This also works for internal support or Intranets)
  • Portal: My site is designed to be an information resource, to attract people repeatedly, as well as advertisers.
Sales:

Many site owners think that simply posting the information about their products to a website will result in thousands of easy sales with little effort. This is a sure-fire way of sending your site to the brochure-ware graveyard in the Great Hard Drive in the Sky. In a sales site, you should have the following:

  • Comparisons with your competitors. Show why your product or service is better than the others are. Avoid stating the obvious, like "We care", "We listen", "We're the best", "We're the most cost effective", etc, since EVERYone will say the same about their own firm. Tell people WHY you are the best. HOW will your product or service solve their needs or make their lives easier or more enjoyable?
  • Support information: Never assume your product or service is dummy-proof. There are plenty of people out there who cannot follow even the simplest of instructions (To be fair, often "Simple" to the developer translates to "Nuclear Physics" to the public). Have your support staff keep a list of FAQ's and list them and the answers on the site. If there are additional products, files, information or hints that make your product easier or more useful list them!
  • Related industry information: Even after a client has purchased your product or service, you want them coming back to your site. Since you cannot release a new product every day for them to buy, have information related to the industry your product serves on your site. It keeps users coming back and builds brand awareness for your firm.
Support:
  • As above, *never* assume your product or service is dummy-proof. It is not. If you just said to yourself "But mine is" then start reading this sentence repeatedly until your answer changes. ASSUME something will go wrong with the installation or use of your product and have the information for a fix available on your site, EVEN IF THE FIX DOES NOT BELONG TO YOU. Do not leave out even the obvious. For example: If you are selling natural gas stoves on your site, you should have a list of natural gas suppliers, as well as installers on your site. (You would be surprised how many people buy a gas stove with no natural gas service to their homes).
  • User Forums: Your users are often your best resource for free support to your other users. It also shows new customers that you have a devoted enough clientele that they are willing to support other users of your products. There are a ton of discussion-board CGI's available out there free or for a reasonable cost.
  • Manuals: Put your manuals online. Do not be so silly as to be afraid your competitors will "get" your manuals from your site. If *I* were to compete with you, your product manuals would be the first thing I would acquire, and it would not necessarily mean buying your product. Save your users the time and yourself the support cost of a telephone call for simple questions. Put the manuals and helpfiles online.
  • Upgrades: Make product upgrades available on your site. DO NOT make the mistakes of certain large software companies (You know who I mean) by charging your users for what amounts to bug-fixes (your fault) or incremental upgrades (nickel-and diming). On the other hand, if there are major product improvements and additions (or new modules) then your support site is an excellent sales resource!
Portal:
  • This is the topic I have the most fun with in dealing with new clients. A true portal site has new content on a daily, if not hourly basis. (You should see the looks on the faces of people who think the web is a get-rich-quick scheme involving simply posting a bunch of brochure contents online).
  • Update your site. If you need to, hire someone to stand behind you with a cattle prod at a certain time of each day to add new content to your site. If you cannot do this, hire someone who can. Additionally (NOT "alternatively"), invite content submissions from other authors around the world (like I am doing right now :) to submit their articles to your site in exchange for proper credit and a link. If you are serious about being a portal, do not insult the authors by telling them you want the articles free AND the copyright. I usually get two or three of these requests a month. I do not even bother responding (Now you know why). If you want authors to give you content on your site, but do not want to pay for it, then you must offer proper credit and a link to their site or email address. If you want total ownership, then compensate appropriately. (US$50-150 is appropriate, depending on the nature of the article).
  • Did I mention updating your site? Stop reading this, go add a new article to your site (This one, for example) and then come back, and keep reading.
  • Cross-linking: Find other sites related to yours and contact their webmasters asking for cross-links. There is nothing wrong with piggybacking someone else's traffic!

If you do not follow at least some of the advice above, then you should not be running a web site. I am not saying this out of arrogant confidence in my own knowledge, either: Look at any successful website: amazon.com, cnn.com, ebay.com, yahoo.com, etc. You will rarely (If EVER) see the same words on the page two days (or twelve hours) in a row. Something to think about.

Marc Bissonnette is the proprietor of CanadianISP, Canadas' largest Internet Service Provider search and comparison site.

InternAlysis - Customized, specialized, dedicated eMarketing specialist
CanadianISP - Canadas' largest Internet Service Provider (ISP) list and comparison web site

* Art 1 * Art 2 * Art 3 * Art 4 * Art 5 * Art 6 * Art 7 * Art 8 * Art 10 * Art 11 * Art 12 * Art 13 * Art 14 * Art 15 * Art 16 * Art 17 * Art 18 * Art 19 *

Our Privacy Statement

Graphics and aesthetic overhaul by Julie Phipps

© 2012 Marc Bissonnette, Beachburg, Ontario