Your Guide To Successful Site Design

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The Path to Online Success
Online success begins and ends with the commitment that’s made by the merchant. It’s that simple. While the Internet is still in its infancy, the baby has stopped crawling and has begun to walk. Let’s not go to the theoretical of how a web site can benefit you.

That horse had left the barn in 1996. We saw that expectations came crashing down upon the heads of investors and business owners alike who are only now beginning to take a fresh look at what worked and what failed. Those workings and failings I identified in my opening sentence. If you want to be successful online then take charge and don’t blame the medium. That being said let’s identify the components that turn a web site into a profit center.

1. To begin, if you are not willing to commit to your web site, as an ongoing part of your business, then your expectations and investment will be marginalized. Be clear about the commitment you need to make for your online presence. Understand first and foremost that the success of your web site begins and ends with you. Going online is not for everyone. If you are dedicated to some simple online principles however, you will enjoy the highest, identifiable, ROI of any marketing medium.

2. Understand your objectives. What do you want to achieve from your online presence? Is your web site an informational portal site? Do you want to sell merchandise? Understand clearly what your objectives are and stay clear. Understand that the term “content is king” doesn’t necessarily refer to volumes of content, but the type of content you create for your customers. Remember, keep your goals clear and simple.

3. Select a web site design company that is committed to the Internet business. Using someone that is not in the field as a professional will only lead to unprofessional results. You need to work with someone that understands the Internet and can provide you with the tools you need. These are first and foremost business tools. Make sure that your web resource company understands business. While no one will ever understand your business like you, there are certain e-business tools that an educated e-business professional needs to discuss with you. Don’t be embarrassed by what you don’t understand. This is a new medium and the language and tools you need to come to understand require an investment in your willingness to learn, and having someone you can relate to regarding business applications is vital. This learning curve is fast and simple. This means that the company you work with must be down to earth in how they communicate with you. If you get complex answers to simple questions then find someone that relates well. After all is said and done your web site is a profit center in your business and you need to understand clearly the terminology that drives it.

4. While a web site is more than a graphic representation of your business, graphics are what compels a customer to stay with you. If your site does not exude a professional quality about it then your customer will be leery about the company that is asking them to entrust their confidence.

5. Understand the tools you need to do the job well. Don’t marginalize the online tools that are available. Look at examples of successful web sites and then utilize the tools you need to manage your web site effectively. These tools will make your job easier and assist you in the successful management of your web site. Most importantly, your online customer has become used to using them and if you aren’t providing them with what has become relatively standardized, then their confidence in you as an online professional will be in question.

6. Give your customer what they are looking for. If your web site is one that is and information portal, then give them that information. If you want to do e-business then do e-business. Extraneous features like flash, audio, video, etc. while nice, do not necessarily assist you in getting the results you want. If a feature is not germane to the deliverable result of your business then don’t waste your customers time, and your money. Keep it simple and to the point.

7. Understand where your customer is coming from. Don’t be misled by the notion that your web site is going to deliver millions of visitors from all over the world. That business model (in most cases) is unrealistic. If you are a small to mid sized business then your web site is going to be most useful in two ways. First, as a means for added sales from your existing customer base, and secondly as a management tool to make doing business with you easier. Focusing on these two aspects of your web site are the primary means of your online success.

8. Market your web site in as many ways as you can. This means educating your customers either through your ongoing advertising efforts, or finding new ways to promote what you offer online. Create counter signs, window signs, add your web site address on business cards, letter heads, envelopes, and by any other means possible. Create special incentives for your customers to do business with you online. Create online specials. Market and advertise your web site. If you don’t keep your web site in your thinking, then neither will your customers.

9. Keep your web site current. Keep in mind that if you sell someone once, then they are more than likely to come back and shop with you again. If your content is outdated and your inventory stale, the chances are you will loose them. Once you do, you’ve most probably lost them for good. Don’t treat your online virtual store any differently then you would treat your physical one.

10. Establish a budget and track your results. There are three components that go into the budget requirements of your web site. The first is design/development. The design/development that is required can vary greatly in price. The more you provide in terms of data and graphics the less you will need to spend on the development part of your site. Remember however that a web site is a fixed asset that you carry on your balance sheet. Second are hosting fee’s. Generally these should range from $20-a month for a non-commerce based site to $50+ for commerce driven sites with a number of options. Hosting fees are the fixed expense in the operation of your web site. Lastly, you need to establish some type of advertising budget. Whether this is for in-house marketing, or for search engine placement, or for other supportive advertising. As stated earlier, you can clearly identify the “ROI” with online advertising. Measure your results.

So, there you have it simple, ha? Well it really is. The hardest part, if your anything like me, is sticking with it. Like anything else in life discipline is the key. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment. Have a realist view of what you can achieve and you will find your e-business profit center a wonderful tool. Don’t shoot the messenger, accept responsibility for both the success and failings of your web site as a part of your learning curve. Most of all stick with it, enjoy it, and make it fun.

Steve Lipman is the president and CEO of Cape Cod E-Com, Inc of Hyannis, Ma. He has been in the Internet business since 1995 and been in the business world for the last 30 years. Cape Cod E-com has been in the forefront of developing e-business software applications with their proprietary software package, CartPoint. His company has developed in excess of 150 web sites. These sites range from the one person small business enterprise, to large regional customers, to national and international clients.

Mel Davey is the creator of ImagineNation (http://imaginenation.com/), a full service E-Commerce Application Service Provider, offering Storefronts, Order Management Utilities, and 3rd party credit card processing.

Your Guide To Successful Site Design
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