Why are so many websites only skin deep?
Your site is your shop window – whatever your business your website should be substantial. Prospective customers WILL look at it. What does it show them about your business? Does it show that your business is substantial. To do so your site should be substantial too. Substantial Sites have 3 core elements:
Web designers like to design; they like to be creative. They tend to be project driven while a substantial website should be dynamic, continually evolving and updated. It should be a process not a project. I’m not sure that, by themselves, web designers are the best route to a substantial website. Too often, web designers design, create and launch – then hand over the site to their client while they move on to the next creative project. There is no real consideration as to how the site will evolve after it is launched.
Don’t get me wrong, good design is important but it is only part of the package. Most people focus on the ‘look’, the initial WOW factor, but design goes further than this. How easy is it to navigate your site? can visitors find the content they are seeking? A good web designer will build good navigation into their design. It is part of the creative process. Good navigation is a critical element of a substantial site but it is only the second element.
Good content is at the heart of a substantial website – and normally the element which gets least attention – often because it can be the hardest to handle and sustain. People usually see a website as a one off project/investment that they can contract to a web design specialist. A good deal of thought may be given to the initial content as the site is created but this content development is seen as simply an element of the site creation project. Do it then it’ll be good at least for a few years – like a brochure. To be fair, most website look good (or even great) on day 1 but what about after a year or 2? Brochures are all or nothing. You get them printed then you are stuck with that content until you do a reprint. A website can be (and should be) so much more. A substantial website should reflect your business as it is now rather than how it was on the day the site was launched. A bit of thought when the site is first created can include options for the easy, regular addition of new content….
A news/blog can be a great addition to a website but it needs to be worked on. We believe new posts/articles should be added at least monthly – preferably every week or two. If you can get into the habit of regularly posting relevant articles on your site, not only does this refresh the site content but it has other benefits: New content keeps your site current. News/blog sections normally mark each new entry with the date it was added. This is good because people will see the dates which tells them that the site is up to date and that as a company, you are on the ball. Some people take dates off their news section but this can tend to make visitors wonder just how up to date the content is… the choice is yours. Speaking of dates – most sites include a copyright mark © with a year – This looks fine at first but if your site still says ©2009, what dose that say about your company? A simple line of code in your site <?= date(‘Y’); ?> gives ©[insert_php] echo date(‘Y’); [/insert_php] and next year it will automatically switch to the new year. If you wish, you could make it ©2009-[insert_php] echo date(‘Y’); [/insert_php]. Easy but effective
Case Studies and Testimonials
There is nothing like getting someone else to ‘blow your trumpet’. It is one thing for you to say how great you are but so much better coming from someone else. Equally case studies can demonstrate you really deliver benefit. Some technical and niche markets can make it difficult to identify key customers or secure attributable comments but a bit of creative thinking can still deliver impact while keeping sensitive information under wraps.
You are an expert in your field so make your site useful to people interested in that field (i.e. your target market!) by giving some advice. I’m sure you won’t want to give away your trade secrets but giving relevant hints and tips is really appreciated by people and it can be a great way to demonstrate your expertise. A bit of altruism can also show that you do business reasonably.
Content management is not just an option
In the 21st century, you should not need to depend on external services for all updates to your website. Some form of content management should be available on all sites. You should be able to amend, add and delete content and images in house, whenever you want. The idea that changing an out of date picture depends on you tracking down the person who designed your site 2 or 3 years ago, getting them to do it, and then accepting a bill for £20-30 (or more!) is just so outdated. This isn’t to say you need to be a web wizard. Collaboration is the way to effectively sustain a substantial website – check out this post for more on collaborative websites
Wot, no SEO?
Many of you will know that we have a view about Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) There are many companies who claim they can (for a fee) improve your ranking in search engines. While it may be true that they can demonstrate higher rankings after some work on particular search terms there is less consideration of whether this work actually delivers more visitors to your website (check out this experiment we did) – and isn’t relevant web traffic what it is really all about? Good SEO is so much more than rankings (and typically more expensive!) What is certainly true is that Google likes dynamic websites and substantial sites are dynamic. By regularly adding new content your site is updating which attracts the search engines and by making sure you include relevant content and search terms you will improve your search rankings – as a spin-off to keeping your site substantial. Having a substantial website is more about attitude and commitment rather than a collection of linked pages. Good design is important but only a part of the process.