A business’s website is an essential tool for customers to find out about you and your services or products, and in many cases is your first contact with potential new clients. So if a website is essential to your business, what is essential to your website?
The most important items are a domain name, and a reliable web hosting service for the site. However, we’ll get to those items last and first provide a brief overview of the actual contents of thewebsite.
Below is a “Top 5” essentials checklist for items every website should have:
1. Landing Page
First impressions count, perhaps more so on the Web than anywhere else. When someone visits your store, you can interact with them and develop a personal connection. On the Web, you do not have that luxury and thus you have only a few seconds to connect with a new visitor and get them interested. This is also your first opportunity to identify your brand or image, which should carry throughout the site.
2. Easy Navigation
You’ve managed to keep your visitors’ attention with your stellar landing page. But again, on the Web, you can’t be with them to guide them in person. It’s essential that it is as easy as possible for all of the unique individuals visiting your site to be able to find the information that is relevant to them. In the early days of the Internet the rule of thumb was that no page on the website should be more than three clicks away. As sites have grown in size and complexity, this is no longer a feasible (nor reasonable) goal. Thankfully, users are also savvier than before. However, it should still be obvious even to a new user how they are to move through your site with a clear and consistent set of menus and links. No matter what section of your site they are on, they should intuitively know how to move to another area.
Be sure to test it out as well! You are intimately familiar with the details of your business and your site, which does not make you a good test candidate. Get some family and friends to test drive your site and provide feedback on how easy (or difficult) it was to move around and make changes if necessary!
3. About Us Page
This page is essential to your site as this is where you gain a visitor’s trust. Before a visitor can believe in your products or services, they need to believe in your company, and an ‘About Us’ page is where you get to tell your story to earn that trust. It’s certainly OK to toot your own horn a little bit on this page so people know that you’re the real deal, but if you’re over the top you run the risk of turning some people off (and it only takes a click to lose a visitor).
4. Contact Information
Make sure people to know how to reach you in every which way possible! Hopefully this item is obvious for everyone, but its not just to aid in the sales process. This page is also essential in building trust. People NEED to know that they can reach a live person if they have any questions the site does not answer, or even more importantly, if they experience any problems with their product or service.
If you have a physical location for your business, put up a photo and make sure you have a map. It’s extremely easy to embed a link to a mapping service like Google Maps or MapQuest or Bing on your Website. Not only does this put a clear map on your site that people are familiar with, it also lets them get precise driving directions from wherever they might be.
5. Call to Action
We are all in business for a reason, so make sure that your website does something for you to help you grow your business. Now that you’ve connected with a visitor and gained their trust, its time to try to get something from them that will help you. Online catalogs and shopping carts aren’t right for every business, but every business can still call people to take some sort of action on their site. Some examples of easy calls to action could be
- Offering a coupon that they can print
- Have them inquire further regarding a special promotion
- Sign up for an e-newsletter
So those are the “Top 5” essentials for your website. There are of course more tricks of the trade, such as including special tags on your site code to help search engines index your content, and we will follow up with those in future posts (keep an eye out).
- Keep it as short as possible – no one likes typing a long domain.
- Make it as easy as possible to remember – if it sticks in people’s head, they are more likely to not only visit the site, but also mention it to others more readily. In addition, try to register a “.com” domain, as people are more used to this than any other domain extension.
Also, keep in mind that a domain name is like property. Similar to owning a house, there is an annual property tax that you need to pay to keep your domain. Also like the deed on a house, a domain should be registered IN YOUR NAME. Can you imagine going to sell your house only to find out that the deed was written out to your mortgage broker or real estate agent? If your web designer or web hosting company lists themselves as the domain registrants, they better have a very good explanation why, or you may wish to consider looking for new partners for your web site. The domain ‘registrant’ is the legal owner of the domain name. Sometimes a hosting company or designer will list themselves as a technical contact on a domain name in order to provide you better support, however this is more a matter of personal preference. The ‘registrant’ is the only entity who has true ownership of the domain name.
You’ve now created an attractive site with a simple and easy domain name that is going to bring you new business. So … now what?
The website needs to be placed on a computer that is always connected to the Internet and is listening for new connections when visitors come knocking. This is the purpose of Web hosting companies. Choosing a hosting company (and even a web hosting package once you’ve identified a company) is not an easy task and we will explore those topics in more depth in future posts as well. One thing to keep in mind is not all hosting companies are created equal, and even those who are will have different strengths that may or may not meet your individual business needs.
Earlier we discussed that an ‘About Us’ page is a great way for people to get to know your company when they visit your site. When looking at web hosting companies, find that ‘About Us’ page and conduct your due diligence. Is this an established hosting company that owns their own equipment and has years of experience, or is it a someone who needed a side income and is leasing a machine from another hosting company (and who knows if they did their due diligence and are in turn leasing from someone else)?
A Web hosting company is not only responsible for keeping your website online 24/7. A GOOD hosting company will also be your IT department and technical resource. Choosing a great company that is willing to work with you to tailor to your individual needs will make all the difference in the success of your business’s Web presence as it enters into the world wide Web!