Here is a recap of the content of our first two guidelines for getting a successful business started:
Step 1: DECIDE WHAT YOUR BUSINESS IS GOING TO BE
Step 2: CREATE A WEBSITE
This article will extend the ideas for CREATING A WEBSITE. In the last article we talked about the design of the site which provides a critical first impression with your visitors. Remember, with website design it is better to have no online presence than a lousy one.
As important as the design is, you must convince your visitors that your site is worth a return visit. This is typically done through QUALITY content throughout your site.
A quick tour through cyberspace will show that there are many good looking websites that contain nothing of value for their visitors. These types of sites lack the longevity needed in today’s cyber savvy culture. Style and substance must go hand in hand.
Because content is a key to website development, you must determine whom your target audience is. If your target audience is fishermen, it would make little sense to include Grandma Sarah’s recipe for apple pie. It doesn’t take long to visit a variety of websites that contain advertisements for products that have nothing to do with the website. It is also easy to find websites that contain content that, while interesting, have little to do with the products, goods, services or information the site is expected to provide. When a website owner misses their target audience it leaves the impression that they have little skill in providing the very thing the visitor came to the website for – the very thing you wanted them to leave with.
Once you decide who your target audience is, you need to determine content and direction for your site.
For example, if you are selling fishing equipment, you may want to have other content related to fishing such as fishing tips or fishing locations, etc. You will want to provide content that will keep your visitors coming back for more.
Many site builders have discovered a message board to be an effective tool for bringing likeminded consumers together. You can make this happen on your website with very little time commitment required. Whatever the focus of your website, the message board should operate with a similar focus. This can provide an additional tool to drive visitors back to your site.
Visitors can be consumers of either products or information. If you are effectively catering to their informational needs you can still derive a financial return by providing links to shopping resources that may benefit the visitor. It is also possible to create a specialty shop of your own that caters to a specific segment of fishermen. If you don’t want to develop your own shop, you can link with existing outlets that provide a financial return for every sale directed from your site. You may not get rich from this approach, but it provides an added benefit for your visitor and may be another means of encouraging their return.
Unless you are independently wealthy you will need to find a source for revenue to pay for site development and ongoing hosting and other incidental costs. Make sure to develop open space on your website to allow for the inclusion of sold advertising once your site takes off. Always think ahead.
Your website is something akin to a canvas just waiting for a brilliant piece of art to take shape. Carefully map out the pages you will need for your site. First, you need a homepage - then determine what other pages you will need.
Your homepage should accurately explain and summarize your website’s mission. Work through the mission carefully to minimize words while maximizing the clarity of the purpose statement. If you are selling a product or service your homepage needs to catch your visitor’s attention immediately. Don’t make your visitor search to discover what it is your site does – it’s a game very few will play.
The following is a list of common pages visitors expect in a website:
These pages are often called by other names, but once you determine the primary categories for your home page you will want to divide your content into appropriate pages. One of the cardinal rules of site development is to always make sure your site is easy to navigate. What this means is that your visitors should be able to easily find what they are looking for. If finding the material they need requires a site search, you may have lost a return customer. Don’t make them search for content. On the other hand you should always provide a prominent link back to your homepage on EVERY page of your site.
When you place multiple ads, images and flashing text on your web pages, your visitor may leave confused and frustrated. Keep things simple – never over produce a webpage and make your content easy to read. A key component to this objective is to maintain a consistent and universally utilized font such as Arial or Times New Roman. Little known fonts may not display correctly for all visitors and may provide further frustration.
BE SURE there are no spelling errors anywhere on your site! Spelling mistakes make a website look very unprofessional. It doesn’t take long to load the content onto a word processor to check for common mistakes in both spelling and grammar. Having someone proof your pages can also add to the professional objectives you desire.
Should you require assistance in devising quality content for your site, you may want to consider hiring a freelance writer to assist in content development. It will be well worth the investment!
When developing content for your website, keep in mind that your text should be as search engine friendly as possible. We will talk more about this in Part 4.
Please look for Part 4 of Building Your Way to Online Success.