Focusing on Essential Elements For Websites – Part 1

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It’s a frequent issue that comes up whenever I’m talking with someone about their website. There is so much to think about when getting your website going that it’s hard to keep up. It’s easy – really easy – to get swamped in the weeds of the fine-grain details and overlook elements that are essential to your site being successful. So if you’re not sure what’s missing from your site take note of the essentials below and make sure you’ve got them implemented. It’s your virtual reputation. Make sure you have the basics covered.

"About Us" page

This is an easy one to gloss over but people like to know that they’re doing business with people. This isn’t a 5000 word essay that would take a week to read, it’s an elevator speech and a resume all in one. Chris Brogan has an excellent example of a great “about” page. If a publisher, potential client, or customer landed on his page they’d immediately be informed about all that he does and what he’s accomplished.

This is not a place to revisit your services page, it’s a place where potential clients and customers learn about with who they’re going to do business. It’s where they learn why they should contact you. A List Apart wrote a great article a couple years back on creating a great ‘about’ page. Ask yourself – if a reporter wanted to do a story on businesses in your market and landed on your ‘about’ page, would there be compelling enough content for them to want to contact you?

"FAQ" page

A good FAQ page can whet the appetites of your visitors. I know I personally look at FAQ pages all the time. It helps me learn about the finer details about what a company offers, and will almost always clear up questions that arise while I’m looking at other places in their site. Make sure that you’ve got quality questions and answers here. Don’t make a sales-pitch – it’s a turn-off and it doesn’t do what it was intended to do which is to answer a “frequently asked question”. Instead, if you’re not sure what kinds of questions are frequently encountered talk to your sales team (if you have one), or the main person who answers your phone. Don’t overwhelm your visitors with 50 different questions, but make your list sufficient so that you cover the basics answer common concerns, and leave them wanting to contact you to take the next step!

Privacy Policy

You may ask, “why would I need a privacy policy?” Bottom line is if you’re collecting personally identifiable information from visitors to your site then it’s a good idea to have a privacy policy. That way if someone is so inclined, they can check your policy if they’re concerned about how you will use any information you submit to them. In addition, if you’re required by law to disclose information about the nature of your business, this would be a good place to do it. You want your visitors to feel safe and at-ease on your site. If they feel welcome and safe then they’ll be more likely to stick around and spend more time on your site. Authenticity and transparency is the new (old?) way of doing business. Be up front, be honest, be sincere. Protect your visitors and win fans that will be happy to do business with you.

Blog

Do I really need to say it? Okay, yes, you need a blog. It doesn’t matter if your business is a lawn maintenance company, or an air conditioning business, your existing customers and clients – and future customers and clients – can use the information that you would post to your blog. It’s also a magnet for search engine traffic.

I’m sure you’ve heard the arguments, but if you haven’t here they are. Writing a regular blog post establishes your credibility as a subject matter expert. So many times your potential customers and clients will do a search for potential businesses before even picking a phone book (does anyone use those any more?). It adds value to your services by extending the amount of information that’s available to your anyone who would be interested in doing business with you.

The reasons for blogging are numerous; it’s a given that you need one. Write early, write often and write a lot. Not sure where to begin? No worries – contact meI can help you get started with your blog.

Call to action

Essentially it’s a tool with which you want visitors to your site to engage and heighten their involvement with your website by clicking through and making a purchase or taking the next step toward employing your business’ services. It could be a web button where a user downloads your free application, submits an order for your marketing report, or submits a contact form, or otherwise initiates contact with your company. The time you have to capture the attention of your users is woefully short and you need to have good, strong, thoughtful engagement tools that grab their attention and get them to take the next step.

There is much thought that needs to go in to creating effective calls to action. There is more to it than just putting a button on a page and hoping that someone clicks through. Paul Boag put together a great blog post on how to create a great call to action. In Paul’s words "An effective call to action is the linchpin of a successful site and involves drawing together best practice in usability, creative visual design and powerful copy writing." I couldn’t have possibly said it any better myself.

Next time in part two of Essential Elements for Websites I’ll cover contact information, accessibility & usability, hosting, domains and content.

image by Grand Canyon NPS