Make Your Website the Public Soul of Your Business
A good website will draw people to your business. It will make them want more. This article details some things to keep in mind when creating and maintaining your site.
If your eyes are the windows to your soul, then for the business owner it can be said that your Internet website is the window to your business soul. People can look at your website and get a very good sense as to who you are and what you offer.
That’s in theory. Many people start out strong, with the idea of building a website because they’ve seen so many other businesses do it, but then daily life takes over and the website becomes no more than a virtual Yellow Pages listing. A customer wouldn’t see much going on with your business soul based on your inactive or lackluster website.
So what’s your business soul like these days? If you are putting together a website to represent your business, or revamping what you already have, keep the following in mind:
--Easy-on-the-eyes design. You want something that reflects your business graphically. A biker shop wouldn’t want a background of daisies in a field, for example.
Ron Sargent runs Outback Leather at 309 Main St. in the building that once housed Gayers Saddlery, a Maryland-based tack shop. Outback’s website http://www.mdoutbackleather.com/ conveys an ambiance that coordinates to both the location and type of business. The logo has an Old West look, and the background is a creamy parchment. All of the colors reflect leather in various states.
--Easy to understand. It’s very difficult to write something in a simple fashion. When you develop your site, have an outsider review it. Words that make perfect sense to you and your employees will be a foreign concept to Joe Customer who searches your website. Joe is the person you want to understand it, not your employees. It has to be informative and make you sound like an authority, but it also has to be layman friendly.
Tell your customers what you can do for them. At the Outback Leather website, Ron Sargent is quoted: “If you can draw it, we can make it.” His credentials and background are on the site, but in that one sentence, Sargent draws in the person who may have come to shop in search of a gift for someone else. "If you can draw it, we can make it.” That’s a hook that draws a customer in.
--Easy to navigate. Think Field of Dreams here. “Build it, and they will come.” In the case of a website, they may come to your page, but if you make it impossible for them to get from point A to point B, they’ll come…then they’ll leave, quickly and unsatisfied. That’s almost as bad as someone not seeing your site at all.
I went through the Outback Leather site with the goal of finding points that would trip a viewer up. I clicked on the entries (Cleaning & Repairs, Custom Work, Dying…all entries in alphabetical order) to see if they followed through logically.
People often fail here. They have lots of sections listed on the website but those sections say: “Coming in the near future.” That’s a tease, and it annoys a customer. If you don’t have it done, don’t make it live. Better to leave no impression than to leave a bad impression.
With Outback, each of the listings measured up in an easy-to-read, easy-to-follow fashion. Within each list, the designer used bullet points and simple phrases so the reader can navigate the information quickly.
Oddly, the only fall-down point I found was in relation to the tail end of the Home Page marked “Links.” After the list of services and ideas, it says simply: “Links.” Unfortunately, that’s the one link that didn’t work. I’m guessing the designer means for more information to be provided, such as links to equestrian sites and such. I wouldn’t have thought to look for more information, but since it was offered to me, I felt cheated. It is bothersome to think you can look for something, then have it not work.
--Easy to upkeep. When I get my hair cut, and the stylist asks me how I want it done, I say: I want to be able to get out of the shower and do this (I shake my head back and forth, and my hair falls into place). The stylist looks at me with a mixture of disbelief and disdain. Creative people want to do their thing. The stylist wants my hair to be runway perfect. Here’s the problem, the next time I wash my hair, it’s not going to look the way the stylist did it in the shop. I know I won’t be able to maintain it, so I make sure he understands not to make my hair life so difficult so as to make me hate him (and never come back). Note that last part. That’s the part you don’t want to happen with your website.
You may have the best-designed website that money can buy, but unless you can (and will) update the information to include specials & deals, upcoming events, staff changes and the like, you may do more harm than good. You want a website you can make new and fresh on a regular basis. You want people coming back, not leaving aggravated.
If you have news or an event on your website that is over a year old, people will think your business is in disarray. If you are not taking care of that, the customer will wonder what else you are neglecting.
Finally, the best advice is to troll the Internet, looking at a multitude of sites. See what you like and don’t like. Most importantly, find out the things that bother you---then make sure you don’t do them.
Nowadays, your website may be the first look a customer gets of your business. You want to makes sure it’s not the first and last look a customer has of your business.