ISSUE 453: THE HIGH-TECH OFFICE- June
A few simple changes can dramatically increase
the effectiveness of any company's Web site
Commonly held wisdom suggests that it's
important to get people coming to your Web site, and then wanting to
come back again and again. As a result, many sites are now offering
contests, promotions and gimmicks in an attempt to get people who've
viewed a site to bookmark it and return regularly.
In some cases, this makes sense. Certainly, if you've
sold ads on your site, and are paid by the number of "hits," it may be
worthwhile. But, ultimately, your Web site isn't there to get people to
view it -- it's there to produce sales (whether online or offline), to
publicize your business or to offer information that would otherwise
tie up staff time.
So your initial task is to get people to come to your
site in the first place. That means making sure that you're listed on
the major search engines, and that your site comes up in response to
all the logical queries a potential customer might make.
Once people come to your site, however, glitz and
gimmicks may actually get in the way. If you're hoping to generate
sales or to provide information, make sure that users can get what they
want (or what you want them to get) quickly and easily. Fancy
animations just slow everything down, as do pages that load up for no
other purpose than to display a button saying, in effect, "Click here
to get to the page you really want."
Remember, if it takes a potential customer too long on
your site to get to where he or she wants to go, it's easy for that
person to click on the Back button to return to the search
engine and go to the next site on the list -- probably one of your
So make your site easily navigable, and be sure to
test it out using a dial-in modem connection. Get people who weren't
involved in designing the site to try to find information on it, and
take their feedback seriously.
Remember, many potential customers are using Web sites
as a way to gather information, prior to purchase. If your site easily
provides that information, they will keep coming back until they
finally make a purchase. But if information is hard to find, they'll
probably seek it elsewhere, regardless of any contests, animations or
other ultimately diverting frills.
While you're keeping your Web site's focus on your
bottom line, take a moment to think about your clientele. One of the
most powerful things about the Internet is that it's international;
potential customers are not limited to the Lower Mainland, or Canada,
or even English-speaking North America. Your Internet service
provider's log files can let you see how many of your site's visitors
are coming from outside North America.
Most of us lack the resources to deal with customers
in a wide range of languages and our Web sites are, for the most part,
going to remain English-only. Nevertheless, even in English, there's a
lot that can be done easily to make your site more usable to
For instance, does your site give a 1-800 phone
number? If so, does it work outside Canada or North America? Is there a
way for potential overseas customers to reach you? Fax is often a
preferred tool by people who have limited spoken English.
And when you're listing those phone and fax numbers,
include the country code (+1) along with the area code. As well, give
business hours along with time zone, if you want potential customers to
contact you directly. Including those hours in an international
standard time format, perhaps translated to Greenwich Mean Time, can
help make it known when it's worthwhile calling.
Make sure that your Web site includes an e-mail
contact address, and that it's written as a link on your page. That
way, simply clicking on the link loads your address right into their
e-mail software, making it easy to contact you -- regardless of time of
Such modest changes can mean a lot, giving you a Web
site that demonstrates you are open for business, worldwide.*