Keys To A Successful Web Site

Web sites generally serve one of two main purposes: to save time, or disseminate information. Think about the web sites you frequent for a minute; they probably fit one or both of these categories. For example, a bank whose web site allows online account access certainly saves time for both customers and bank staff, while providing up-to-the-minute data to customers.

To begin, write down the goals for your web site. Maybe there are just a few, but for some organizations there may be many goals. Having a list makes it easy to see how well your web site is meeting your goals, and what needs to be improved. Ultimately a successful web site should accomplish its goals. Every business should be all for saving time (a.k.a. money) and improving customer relations, but the question is, how to best accomplish that online?

Saving Time

Time savings for a web site can target several different groups, such as employees, customers, and prospective customers. An informational web site can offload everyday inquiries about product information from staff, while at the same time allowing customers or prospects to obtain information about your products or services 24 hours a day at their convenience, even late at night once the kids are in bed.

Analyze your company and see if you can spot where your employees spend a lot of time during the day. If someone spends a few hours a day processing returns or keying order information, perhaps that function can be moved to the web, freeing that person for other tasks. If customers are filling out and faxing over a paper form anyway, many will find it just as easy to type the information in online. Allowing customers to look up returns or order status online further saves employee time.

Analyze how your target groups want or expect to use your web site. Put links to frequently used areas on the home page. Why make a bank customer click through several pages to log in when they can log in to their account directly from the home page?

Keep 'Em Coming Back

Find a way to keep customers interested in your site. First and foremost, your web site should be fast, and easy to navigate. Users will give up waiting for a site whose pages are slow to load, or if they cannot figure out where to find the information they desire. Worse, their annoyance with your company grows with their frustration. Similarly, the need for reliable web hosting increases as your site traffic and e-mail usage increase. If prospective customers can’t connect to your web server or can’t reach you via e-mail they will likely continue down their search engine results and end up somewhere else. There are many ways to optimize images, navigation, and page code to provide speedy page downloads and provide nice-looking, search engine-friendly pages. If you are not familiar with the newer web design technologies such as CSS, you should do some research or get help from a professional such as ITS.

Regular updates to your site not only invite visitors to look deeper, but can encourage search engines to rank your site higher in search results. Consider becoming an "authority" in your industry by publishing opinions, white papers, or articles of interest to your customer base on your web site. These should help people find their way to your site via search engines, especially if other sites link to yours.

Savvy webmasters will try to get other sites to publish articles for free, in exchange for a link back to the author’s web site. This also typically helps search engine rankings. The recent popularity of blogs (short for web logs, which one might think of as a diary crossed with an opinion column) plays upon the desire for new information aswell. Allow readers to send their friends links to an article they find interesting. The What’s New In IT RSS news feed and online newsletter archive on are examples of these techniques.

Check your web site statistics reports to find out if any pages might still have links to pages that have moved, rendering the links inoperable. For example, most of ITS’s web hosting plans have statistics that are accessible at (use your domain name, of course). When a user types in or clicks a bad or outdated link, instead of a generic "page not found" error message have your web site display a more helpful page with links to main areas of your site, or possibly a way to search your site.

Providing value to your customers will increase usage of your web site, thereby providing a gateway to meet your other online goals.

September 2005

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