Web sites are virtual business cards
A friend asked me what it takes to build and market a Web site. Web sites are multifaceted; they include a variety of components. The requirements of each Web site may vary greatly according to the intended use.
For example, an artist may only need a simple Web site containing a few pages detailing the style he or she uses and featuring samples of work. On the other hand, a hair stylist may need a complex Web site involving product sales, appointment scheduling, multimedia hair dressing guides and other interactive tools. These features would require a significantly more advanced platform and would likely require custom programming to satisfy the purpose of the site as well as the needs of the business.
Regardless of the complexity, Web sites have become virtual business cards, and without them businesses are falling behind the curve. For most businesses, creating a Web site is often as important as maintaining a professional approach with customers or placing an ad in the local paper. A Web site creates a look and feel for the business.
My friend is an architect and was seeking to create exposure for his business through online marketing. He realized that a Web site would be instrumental to the future success of his business.
In order to help my friend understand more about creating an online presence, I listed eight of the most important principles — a blueprint of a simple e-commerce Web site. These features are important for any business owner as he or she prepares to enter into the “Webosphere.”
1. Home page perks
All Web sites should have a solid home page describing the purpose of the site (this can be done visually) and directing your visitor to the pages you want them to visit. The home page should entice viewers to surf the other pages of your site.
2. ‘About us’ page
This is an important page to build perceived value and explain what your business has to offer. Fraud is a significant concern for online shoppers, and a well-constructed “about us” page can help overcome this concern. The goal is to build trust and establish a relationship with the customer.
3. “Contact us” page
Include, at a minimum, two forms of contact so your visitors have multiple ways to reach you. I recommend a phone number and e-mail address.
4. Policies page
Clearly outline your policies so visitors understand what they are agreeing to when doing business with you. Include, if applicable, policies defining shipping and handling, returns and cancellations, and privacy.
5. Catalog page
For a retail business, a well-organized product catalog helps visitors find the products and services they are looking for quickly and easily. This creates efficiency and increases your perceived value.
6. Quote page
For a service business, visitors want pricing and quotes immediately. This will help customers decide if they want to contact you.
7. Online checkout
When visitors search you out online they are often looking to purchase online as well. Provide a method of online payment even if it is only the address where they could send a check.
8. Reporting tools
Every Web site should include tools that analyze your traffic. These tools allow you to see how many visitors are visiting your site, where they are coming from, what they are viewing on your site and how long they are staying.
These eight primary principles will allow businesses to recruit visitors, satisfy their immediate needs and create a new stream of revenue via an online marketplace. In addition, you will be better able to serve your current customers and give them additional ways to interact with your business.
Keep in mind that although there are various bells and whistles available to create an interactive experience, focusing on the overall objective of your Web site is important. Do not allow these upgrades to take away from your e-commerce goals.
As for my friend, we will see what the future holds for him as he begins his journey into the online marketplace. I hope he is already engulfed in the first draft of his Web site! UV